11 Proven Ways for How to Finally Get a Toddler to Sleep

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Getting a toddler to sleep through the night can be a nightmare for parents. No matter how well sleep training your baby has gone, keeping a toddler asleep is an entirely different thing. Learn how to get a toddler to sleep and why they aren’t sleeping to begin with!

get a toddler to sleep

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How to Get a Toddler to Sleep a Multitude of Ways

Why don’t toddlers sleep through the night?

  1. Not enough sleep
  2. Too much sleep
  3. Fears and anxieties
  4. An erratic sleeping schedual
  5. Poor bedtime routines
  6. Loneliness
  7. Growing whether physically or mentally
  8. Pain from teething or other things
  9. Resistance to shut off the fun of the day
  10. Other reasons

Toddlers are more mature and more aware of the world around them than they were as babies. Fears have begun to build. Excitement of the day and all the wonderful and fun things in it has become much more real. They are growing mentally at a rapid pace. All of these quickly contribute to sleepless nights.

Toddlers wake frequently. They begin developing adversity to bedtime. Parental exhaustion and frustration set in quickly as there’s a good chance you haven’t slept well for years since the birth of your baby.

What type of sleep problems are common for toddlers?

  1. Toddlers refuse to go to sleep. The dreaded “No bedtime!” which may be as simple as them continually getting out of bed OR as complex as a major meltdown and tantrum.
  2. Your child has nightmares/night terrors/ or fears. Night terrors and nightmares become more common at this age. The good, the bad, and the dangers of the world have become much more real to a toddler and they may have trouble staying asleep or falling asleep because of them.
  3. Your child cries for you repeatedly at night. Toddlers get lonely throughout the night. If they are unable to calm themselves back when they wake (which may be up to 6 times a night under totally regular circumstances) you will be repeatedly drawn from bed to soothe them back to sleep.
  4. Your child has trouble falling asleep. Most toddlers are very sensitive to the amount of sleep they get and when it comes. If they wake too early, do not nap, nap too late or too long, or get overtired, the act of falling asleep can be treacherous and exhausting.
  5. Your child may be in pain. Teething can be horrendous for some young toddlers. The pain will keep them awake night after night. Illness or food allergies and sensitivities can also play a major role in inability to sleep.

How Many Hours of Sleep Does a Toddler Need?

Every child is a bit different but WebMD states,

“1-3 Years Old: 12 – 14 hours per day

As your child moves past the first year toward 18-21 months of age he will likely lose his morning and early evening nap and nap only once a day. While toddlers need up to 14 hours a day of sleep, they typically get only about 10.

Most children from about 21 to 36 months of age still need one nap a day, which may range from one to three and a half hours long. They typically go to bed between 7 p.m. and 9 p.m. and wake up between 6 a.m. and 8 a.m.” (view source)

Related: How to get Kids to Sleep at any age… and yourself too!

get toddlers to sleep

Let’s learn the top ways to get a toddler to sleep!

As a mother of a toddler who doesn’t even come close to sleeping through the night still at 2 1/2 I created this post to be a help and guide to others struggling like myself. I reached out to other top mom bloggers and medical experts for a well rounded list of ideas to help get your toddler to sleep.

1. Move bedtime

Getting your toddler to sleep fast could be as simple as rearranging their typical bedtime. Maybe what was working for them as a baby no longer fits their sleep needs.

Danielle from DIY Danielle says, “Timing is everything. Having the right bedtime and wake time for your child is important. Our magic number is 6:30pm. When we first started doing it, it seemed too early and we miss out on a lot. But no other time produces children who are happy in the morning. As they get older, we will move bedtime up a bit. We’ve also had great luck with My Tot Clock. Sometimes they need the cue to go back to sleep before the hike into my room.

Try moving bedtime up or back by a half hour each night until you find what works best for your toddler.

2.  Make sure they nap on a schedule

Toddlers are very sensitive to their sleep schedule. Some are alright without a nap but most are the complete opposite! Be sure that your toddler is taking a good nap between 1 and 3 hours long and not anywhere near bedtime!

Carly Campbell of Mommy on Purpose pointed out, “Getting enough daytime sleep is important. Kids who don’t nap at all in the day are less likely to sleep well at night. (In that regard, if they’re really struggling to sleep, move bed time forward a little and see if that helps.) When all else fails, bed sharing is great. We still sleep with our 18 month old because everyone likes sleep.”

3. Try dropping the nap

Napping is typically essential to a toddler functioning well. However there are some that are ready to drop their daytime nap by as young as 3! (My oldest daughter did away with hers about that age. If she did nap, we were up until midnight.)

Kayla from Parenting Expert to Mom states, “All kids are different and their sleep needs will be different as well. Dropping nap was what helped our toddler go to bed and sleep better at night. We also moved bedtime up to an earlier time once he was done with naps. With that said …Hold on to nap time as long as you can! Cutting out nap may something to try if bedtime isn’t going well. Be flexible and do what works for your family and child.”

4. Alter their diet

If your child has food allergies or even sensitivities, what they ate could be the culprit to what wakes them during the night. Frances from Whinge Whinge Wine noted, “With our son the key was finding out what he was eating which set him off as he was waking in pain several times a night. Cutting that from his diet helped immensely!”

Brianne, an RN from Hippie Dippie Mom also suggests, “Keep their daily sugar intake to the RDA of 11g (decrease that amount for smaller children) and eliminate artificial flavor and color as those are known to contribute to hyperactivity.”

5. Try Co-sleeping

Even if you have already had your toddler sleeping in their own bed, that may not work for them right now. New fears and anxieties have developed that weren’t present before.

Stormy from Pregnant Mama Baby Life shared her experience, “Bedtime was a huge struggle for my toddler. He hated going to bed. Honestly, with our schedule we just made it a family event. My husband and I were so tired anyway, it just made sense. We all went to bed together at the same time. It worked for us at the time. We have a family bed and once my toddler saw that everyone was shutting down in the house, it was no longer an issue. No fits, no screaming. Just accepting that this is what we do. Sometimes he even looked forward to bed!”

If sharing a bed with a growing toddler is too much, Dela from Brown Skin Mama shared a phenomenal suggestion, “When my son was younger he just would not sleep well during the night. We discovered that he just didn’t like sleeping in his own room. We decided to set up his toddler cot bed in our room right next to our bed. He slept no problem during the night after that.

Related: How to teach guided meditation and progressive muscle relaxation to help your child sleep

6. Get a Sound Soother

Lisa from Cheerfully Simple recommends, “Our kids each have a sounds soother from Dexbaby. They are ADORABLE stuffed animals that can velcro to the crib, and then they have a sound box inside that you turn on. There are 4 different soothing sounds and a couple different time settings. And, what’s funny is that each kid has their own sleep sound preference. I think they are soothing for our kids, but I also think it is an audible and visual cue that it’s time to sleep. They have been a lifesaver for us.”

(You can pick these up in a teddy bear or lamb!)

7. Enforce a Solid Bedtime Routine

Toddlers thrive in repetition. They feel safe and secure when they know what to expect in a world where they are absolutely inundated with new experiences. Bridget from This Mom Life eloquently recommends to, “Develop a consistent method of connection.

Toddlers are dealing with waves of new emotions and feelings throughout the day. They are processing and learning to navigate through more complex emotions such as fear, jealousy, or embarrassment. Giving them a space to connect helps to bring the day to a healthy close.”

This tip is so important that even Jilly from Baby Sleep Made Simple states that, “Resisting sleep is a normal part of toddler development. Toddlers will test their newfound independence by seeing how far the word “No” will get them. The best way to help your toddler sleep well is to keep consistency to her sleep schedule and routine.”

Audrey from Mommy Enlightened reinforces how important a solid bedtime routine is, “We make sure to stick to a bedtime routine. Before bed we get into jammies, read a couple of stories, and sing a couple of songs. Once it’s time to kiss her goodnight we just leave. We eventually just told her it was time, gave her one hug and kiss and left the room. There were tears for a few nights, but she got used to it pretty quickly and there is no longer any drama surrounding bedtime.” 

8. Also Try Enforcing a Solid Daytime Routine

Toddlers are creatures of habit and routine, they thrive there. If you are still trying to get your toddler to sleep try setting up a regimented daytime routine as well. Amy from Daily Successful Living explained how this worked for her toddler, “my toddlers sleep schedule is 100% dependent on having a regular daytime schedule. When I feed her on a regular schedule, have her nap on a regular schedule and put her to bed at the same time each night she does great. However when I deviate too far from the schedule she wakes up 4-5 times a night.

It is hard to keep a consistent daytime schedule, but for me the nighttime payoff is worth the daytime hassle. I don’t think it really matters what your daytime schedule is as long as it is fairly consistent.”

9. Give Them Choices

Toddlers may begin to dread bedtime because they have no control over it. They cannot dictate the time. They do not get to choose to stay up and play. By allowing your toddler some control over the evening, they may be more apt to work with you.

Nicole from Coffee and Carpool has some great suggestions as to how to offer your toddler reasonable choices, “I give toddlers choices so they feel empowered and want to listen…even if I know what they’ll choose: covers on or off, one story or two, one kiss or two kisses, door open or door closed… I usually ask the final questions as I’m walking out the door.

Jilly, a Neonatal Nurse from Baby Sleep Made Simple reiterates how important allowing toddlers choices is, “Keep a set bedtime, but allow your toddler the freedom to choose which book to read or pajamas to wear. That way, she feels some sense of control.”

Plus we do the same routine every night so they know what to expect. And I keep it simple because you’ll have to do it every night and multiply the routine by the number of kids you have.”

10. Bribery

When all else fails, give bribery a try! Sometimes desperate and sleepless times call for desperate measures. Mom blogger Rhonda gives a couple fun suggestions that worked for her family!

We bribed our daughter. I told her she could have 5 chocolate chips in the morning if she stayed in bed. Then slowly worked the chocolate chips out. For both kids they earned “movie tickets” at night. If they stayed in bed and went without a fuss, they got a movie ticket and needed 5 in order to get Friday night movies (at home).”

11. Invest in a Stellar Sleep Program

If you have exhausted yourself trying moving around your toddler’s schedule, removing and reintroducing naps, created a solid routine for night and day, and still NOTHING is working… it may be time to seek professional help. And I’ve got just the gal for you!

Jilly Blankenship has degrees in psychology and nursing and is a Neonatal Nurse and lactation consultant who developed a phenomenal course called “Baby Sleep Made Simple.” As an exhausted mom herself, she created a sleep course loaded with

  • helpful information based on research
  • step-by-step video guides
  • expert articles
  • and direct access to a baby sleep expert to guide you through a proven method to get your baby or toddler sleeping better.

sleeping toddler

I hope your toddler is finally sleeping!

With this ultimate guide to getting your toddler to sleep you are well on your way to more rested nights and becoming a happier mommy. These tricks and tips have been gathered from moms and sleep experts all across the country and one of these WILL work for you. Do you have any tips to add? I’d love to hear in the comments below.

Please pin this for later so that you can keep coming back to try new tips to get your toddler to sleep!

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  1. Hi, Thanks for your article. I have a four years old baby girl. Sometimes she woke up in the middle night and crying loudly.What should I do at this time? If you give me any suggestion about this, I would much appreciate it. Thanks in advance for your advice.

    1. Sorry to heard about that! I know how exhausting that can be. 4 months is actually the most prominent sleep regression time of a babies life. How they sleep is actually changing and they will wake frequently and often nap shorter during that time. Google has lots of help if the sleep regression lasts to long (it is usually just a phase they will adjust through.) If you are still needing more help the program I mentioned in the post “Baby sleep made simple” can be a huge help!

  2. So helpful post! My little girl is the same age as and she’s exactly the same. She has no problem going to sleep in her own bed but always wakes up and I just put her in with me cos I’m so tired! I’m on my own a lot as well so it’s me that has to get up every night. So I will follow your tips.

    1. Regina, thank you for your kind words and I’m so glad you found it helpful! I’m sure something in here has to work for you. 🙂 Let me know which one ends up being your secret weapon to a peaceful evening.

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