How much sleep?
There is a wide variation in the amount of time toddlers sleep.
Many children of this age need 10 to 12 hours sleep at night. Some have a daytime sleep as well, but only a few children still need this by preschool age.
Some sleep through the night, while many still wake once or twice, and some wake several times. Most toddlers have at least one sleep during the day, usually after lunch.
Night waking is common in these years and there are lots of different strategies to improve that.
Some children can resettle themselves, while others need more comforting. Sometimes just calling back to your toddler can settle them, they know where you are and are happy to go back to sleep.
The confidence to feel brave enough when parents are not there is still developing in 3 to 4 years old.
If night waking is caused by separation anxiety, it usually happens less after 4 years of age.
Lots of stressful events other than lack of confidence can cause sleep disruption.
Changes in your child’s life that may be causing stress, for example moving house, separations, family tension or starting preschool can be factors in night waking. These may not seem a big problem to an adult, but they can be for a toddler.
Sickness, loneliness, being sad or may need more help to sleep. Staying close to them, for example on a mattress in their room, can help them move through the concern more quickly.
When toddlers wake at night, they may cry because they:
- Are in the habit of crying and have not yet learned to resettle themselves
- Are in a light phase of sleep and wake up
- Are afraid or want to know you are there (separation anxiety)
- Feel unwell or are in pain. This could be the cause if waking is not their usual pattern.
- If they wake, you could wait a short while to give them a chance to resettle themselves.