While you may not realize it, by the time that your baby reaches her second birthday, she’s actually spent more time asleep than she has awake. This is particularly amazing, given the penchant of newborns to get their sleep in such short (and inconvenient) bursts.
A toddler needs to get between 12 and 14 hours of sleep in a day, including his nap time. Once he’s in preschool, that can usually drop by about an hour, to between 11 and 13 hours a day.
Some children will continue with two nap times right up until preschool. Other children tend to forego the two nap routine in favor of one longer nap at sometime around 18 months of age. Of course, the less that a child naps during the day, the more he’s likely to sleep longer at night.
So, how do you handle toddler and preschooler sleep? Here are some basic principles to keep in mind:
1. Keep your bedtime routine short and sweet. Don’t fall into the elaborate bedtime routine trap. If your toddler’s bedtime routine includes a bath, followed by a book, followed by a song, followed by a back rub, she’s going to have a hard time falling asleep. You’ve turned what should be a wind-down sleep time into playtime for your toddler. Keep your routine to 15 minutes or less, especially if your little one tends to have some trouble falling asleep.
2. Monitor daytime sleep carefully. If you let your preschooler sleep for six hours during the day, he’s probably only going to sleep for about five or six hours at night. Even if he’s a hard napper, make sure you get him up and that he has plenty to do during the day. You should also watch for signs that your baby isn’t getting enough sleep at night, such as fussiness and fighting.
3. Keep a consistent wake-up routine. You might not know it, but a wake-up routine is as important as a bedtime routine. Get your toddler or preschooler up at the same time every day, at least within 30 minutes. Don’t give in to the urge to let him sleep longer on the weekends, either. You can’t ask a toddler to live in what amounts to two different time zones, or they’ll have the equivalent of jet lag all of the time.