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How to Get a Toddler to Sleep: What to Know


How to get a toddler to sleep? Toddler bedtime schedules!

Toddlers are in one of the most exciting phases of life, but since adult parents can’t remember how exciting it was to have a brand new rapidly forming mind, they won’t be able to relate to a toddler’s insistence on staying awake when all other signs point to a child that desperately needs to sleep. Toddlers can become incredibly difficult to handle when they’re over-tired or under-tired, and parents sometimes become exasperated trying to find ways to get their toddlers to stick to a healthy sleep schedule. You’re not alone if you’re having this trouble. Toddlers are notorious for bedtime temper tantrums and outright refusal to sleep.

Toddler Sleep Schedule

A healthy and regular bedtime sleep schedule will help to cut down on these nighttime refusals to sleep. Recommended sleep schedules for toddler age children (1-3 years of age) vary by the expert you ask, but the general consensus is that a toddler needs about 12 hours of sleep every 24 hour period. When these 12 hours occur will vary by parental schedule, but one thing is for certain. You want that child to sleep through the night, and you’re going to want to follow a regular sleep schedule to reduce nighttime fussing by your toddler. You can get a toddler to sleep much easier when they’re accustomed to a schedule.

Naps Are A Parent’s Best Friend

To get a toddler to sleep during naps is often one of the hardest things for any stay-at-home parent. That’s because toddlers don’t want to sleep sometimes. They want to explore, play, and enjoy their new experiences. There’s nothing wrong with that, but when nap time rolls around, you’ve got a problem on your hands if your toddler refuses to go sleep. You’re going to need a game plan for certain, and it’s going to need to be carried out with a lot of love and care by you. That’s easier said than done because a fussing toddler who doesn’t want to sleep is one of nature’s many furies. They sometimes scream, cry, run around, refuse to sit down, and overall make your life very difficult.

Many pesky things can serve as outright distractions that make it impossible for you to get a toddler to sleep. These distractions are numerous and troublesome:

  • TV
  • Outside noise
  • Noise in the household
  • Colorful toys and interesting things a toddler spots in their room
  • A toddler’s brain may be busy overthinking when nap time or bedtime first starts

Just like you, your toddler has a lot of reasons for being unable to sleep. They’re just not as capable of communicating those things to you as an adult might be, and even if they could tell you why they can’t sleep, chances are that would make them even more wide awake, and that’s exactly what you’re trying to avoid. When a toddler has missed out on a nap time and becomes over-tired, that alone can make them unable to go to sleep. You also might be unable to get a toddler to sleep if they are hungry or in need of water or juice. And then there are those unexpected bathroom breaks that will sometimes wake your toddler up and prematurely end a nap time or bedtime.

Here’s How To Get A Toddler To Sleep

Not a single tip is going to work every single time, and perhaps the best advice you can get for weathering the storm of a very angry, wakeful toddler is that you simply have to weather the storm. Becoming angry is perhaps the one universal thing that parents might do but shouldn’t. When you become upset and angry at a toddler who can’t sleep, you’re likely going to stimulate them more, pass your own bad mood onto them, and cause an intense power struggle instead of something like a short bathroom break. Pinpointing the reason your toddler isn’t sleeping will be a first step.

Toddler sleep basics:

If you can’t get a toddler to sleep, go through your checklist of basics. Are they hungry? Are they over-tired? Are they in need of a bathroom break or diaper change (if it’s a toddler who hasn’t been potty trained yet)? If you’ve gone through all of the basic needs that a toddler might have and you still can’t get a toddler to sleep, it’s time to apply some soothing tactics that will promote sleep. And if you have a toddler who chronically won’t go to sleep, you might begin to look for environmental issues that might be causing the inability to sleep. Just like adults, toddlers will sometimes have trouble sleeping naturally, and sometimes all you can do is calm them.

No distractions!

Remove distractions from the room if you feel like there’s a certain toy. Try to make the sleeping environment for a toddler as quiet as possible. If you’re up banging pots and pans around while your child is asleep, just like any human being trying to sleep, it might make it impossible for them to sleep. Turn the TV off. Toddlers don’t need any distractions while they’re trying to doze off. If the child is still upset and just absolutely throwing a temper tantrum over having to go to sleep, it’s time to apply a parent’s touch. Cradle the child if you have to as far up on your chest as possible, and go into infant mode. You’ll be surprised that this might work for a toddler as well. When you put the toddler down for sleep again, firmly and reassuringly pressing your hand on their back may help.

Creating Reassuring Sleep Environments

To get a toddler to sleep, you need to create a truly soothing and safe environment for them to enjoy their sleep in. Almost any parent will reassure you that even if you do this, some days may be so hectic that your toddler will still struggle to sleep, and as adults know, that’s probably going to be a lifetime thing. Sometimes people have trouble sleeping, and toddlers are no exception. It’s just more upsetting to see a toddler struggling to sleep than it is an adult because toddlers tend to cry and fuss over their dilemma. You’re the captain in this situation, and it’s going to be you who soothes your toddler and helps them finally get to sleep.

What does the perfect sleep environment look like?

The most reassuring sleep environment will be one with no noise, no distractions, and a very comfortable bed to enjoy sleep in. Toddler sleep time should be something the whole family respects. By clearing out distractions and reducing the noise in the room, you increase the chances that you can get a toddler to sleep. Making sure they have a regular sleep schedule and that their basic needs are taken care of before bedtime will also increase the chances you can get a toddler to sleep. If the refusal to sleep turns out to be a power struggle and a toddler fighting sleep for this reason, it can be a struggle, but you can do things to soothe the child and increase the chances that you can get a toddler to sleep through calmness and a gentle touch to the back.


Toddler sleep difficulties will usually begin to appear at about a year of age. Be aware that this is on the way if your child is slowly getting to that age. For well-seasoned veteran parents of toddlers who might now have another toddler to contend with, they know the battle they’re up again. Toddlers may fight sleep sometimes for reasons that even they don’t know, but through practice, you can confidently handle these situations as time goes by. This is another of those parental situations where practice makes perfect. This is the kind of practice you don’t want, though, so creating the best sleep environment and initiating a regular bedtime schedule, you increase your chances to get a toddler to sleep.

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