Why is sleep so important for toddlers? | Sleep Hub

Posted by Bensons for Beds on 1st Jan 2021

Why is sleep so important for toddlers? | Sleep Hub

The benefits of a good night’s sleep are numerous. Not only do you feel relaxed and well-rested after a full eight-or-so hours but you also have time to truly switch off. During this vital period, our brains recharge and our bodies recuperate.

As you might imagine, it’s even more important that children get all the sleep that their bodies and brains need at each crucial stage in their development. However, according to the National Sleep Foundation, almost 30% of children don’t get the right amount of sleep. [1]

In this article, we explore why plenty of sleep is essential and how you can make sure that your toddler is getting the right amount…even when it seems as if they will never go to sleep!

How much sleep do 2-year-olds need?

Toddler looking at an alarm clock to their side and lying on pillow and starrry blanket flanked by teddies either side.

As with adults, every child is different, so exactly how much sleep do children really need?

The truth is that some children need more sleep and some don’t need as much, just like adults. It can also be worth thinking about the quality of the sleep that your toddler is getting, rather than just the amount.

Between the ages of one and two, most children need between 11 and 14 hours of sleep each day. This includes 10-12 hours sleep at night time as well as one or two one hour naps in the daytime.  [2]

At around 18 months old, toddlers will start to just have one nap in the afternoon, rather than two during the day. [3]

Some children may need one to two hours more or less than this recommendation. [4]

Go with what feels natural and right for your child but try to get them into a good daily routine so they know when it is time to go to sleep. This way, you’ll find it easier to get them to go to bed at night time.

What time should a two-year-old go to bed?

To work out the bedtime for your two-year-old, you should start by counting backwards from their normal wake up time. For example, if your toddler regularly gets up at 7am, their bedtime could be between 7pm and 9pm.

You might be looking at this and thinking “I’ll never get my child in bed for 7pm!” An early bedtime can be difficult, especially if you’re a working parent and you also have a daily commute to take into consideration.

If you’re not getting home until 6pm and then you need to prepare and cook dinner as well as spending some quality time with your toddler then a 7pm bedtime might be out of the question.

On the other hand, if you’re a stay-at-home parent, you may be exhausted by 7pm and praying that they’ll go to bed! You can absolutely  adapt your toddler’s bedtime routine to suit your situation.

Nap schedule for toddlers

Until the age of around 18 months, your toddler may still be having two naps in the daytime. At this point, you can try to reduce this to just one nap at around 1pm, after your toddler has had lunch.

Keep daytime naps to no longer than two hours and try not to make it too late in the day or your toddler may not be ready to go to sleep at bedtime.

Should I really wake my toddler from a nap?

Yes! You may be worried about waking your toddler up when they’re napping but if they’re getting too much sleep in the day time then they may not go to sleep at night. The best advice is that if they’ve been sleeping for two hours then it’s time to wake them!  [5]

Benefits of good quality sleep for toddlers

Toddler in blue suit wearing flying goggle and hat with cardboard wings. a shadow of a rocket is on the wall behind.

Getting enough shut-eye is essential for both babies and toddlers, as they still have lots of physical and emotional growing to do.

Some studies have shown that sleep leads to improved attention, learning, behaviour, memory, mental and physical health. [6]

Here are some of the most important benefits of good quality sleep for toddlers:

Physical growth

Toddlers grow extremely quickly. They’re also very energetic, constantly on the move while they develop and explore the world around them. This movement helps them to build muscle and joint strength as well as flexibility and dexterity.

Brain function

During the day, toddlers use their brains to explore and understand their environment. Sleep helps them to switch off from this and allows them to recharge.

Immune system support

Sleep helps the body to rest and recover which is essential when we get ill. Getting enough sleep can help to support the normal functioning of your toddler’s immune system. [7]


Children are very curious about anything and everything – you’ll know this if your toddler is currently at the “why” stage! Sleep helps their brains to store and retain all of the information that they’ve learned during the day.

What happens if my toddler doesn’t get enough sleep?

When a child is tired, they may have increased mood swings, being both grumpy and hyperactive. They may also find it difficult to pay attention. [8] Long term poor sleep during early childhood can lead to more severe issues later on in life like anxiety and depression. [9]

Don’t worry just yet! Keep reading for our top tips on helping your toddler get a good quality night’s sleep.

2-year-old sleep regression

You’ve put all the hard work into making sure your baby is settled into a peaceful bedtime routine and they’re finally sleeping well when all of a sudden, your toddler begins to struggle with sleep. Welcome to the 2-year-old sleep regression or toddler sleep regression as it’s also known.

Sleep regressions can happen during your child’s early years and this one happens at around the two-year mark – you can see why they call it the “terrible twos”! Your toddler may be reluctant to go to sleep at bedtime, wake up during the night or get up too early in the morning.

The sleep regression is caused by a development leap in your toddler. Their physical abilities, language skills and social abilities will have all improved significantly at this age and this can make it difficult for them to sleep at night time. [10]

Separation anxiety, being overtired, teething and changes to their daytime nap schedule can also contribute to the sleep regression.

Try to remember that this is very normal and only temporary. Try to stick to the bedtime routines you’ve already put in place and be calm and consistent when putting them to bed.

READ MORE: If you are struggling to settle your toddler into a good sleep routine, then we have some more  tips for getting your child to sleep.

How can I make sure my toddler is getting enough sleep?

If you’re worried that your toddler is not sleeping or not getting enough good quality sleep, we’ve got some top tips to make sure that they get all the rest and relaxation they need:

Choose the right bed and mattress

A comfy bed can help to keep toddlers asleep for a healthy amount of time. When choosing the perfect mattress and bed for your toddler, firstly check that their mattress is the right size for their cot bed.

Mattresses should fit snugly and have a gap of 1.5cm at the most around its perimeter when the mattress is central. Or, to put it another way, when the mattress is pushed fully against one side of the bed, there should only be a gap of 3cm at the most.

Choose a high quality, supportive mattress to give them a comfortable night’s sleep. Toddlers spines are still strengthening at this age and so a supportive mattress helps to support the spine’s natural alignment.

Opt for a waterproof mattress that can be easily cleaned. Little ones are prone to having accidents while they sleep. A waterproof mattress is easy to wipe clean and this helps to avoid a build-up of bacteria.

Sticking to a consistent bedtime routine

A soothing bedtime routine which involves activities such as having a warm bath or reading a bedtime story can help to calm and relax children before bedtime. The process of doing the same thing each night will help to let them know that it’s time for bed.

Consistency is key

Going hand in hand with a bedtime routine is the need for consistency. Going to sleep at around the same time each night and waking up at a similar time every morning can help to ensure that your toddler gets a good quality sleep. [11]

Turn off electric screens

Try to turn off electric screens like tablets, phones and televisions at least 60 minutes before bedtime. [12] Screens keep a toddler’s mind actively engaged and can delay sleep.[13]

Remove distractions

Your toddler’s bedroom is a place for sleeping. For them to associate their bedroom with sleeping and nothing else, try to remove anything that could cause a distraction like books, TVs, games, toys and electronic devices from the room. [14]

This is easier said than done, especially if you don’t have much space available in your home. If this is the case for you, just try to keep these items away from the bed, if you can, and let your toddler know that when it’s sleep time, it’s not time for playing.


[1] https://www.sleepfoundation.org

[2] https://raisingchildren.net.au/toddlers/sleep/und...

[3] https://kidshealth.org/en/parents/sleep12yr.html

[4] https://www.texaschildrens.org/blog/why-sleep-so-...

[5] https://viagraces.com/wake-a-sleeping-child/

[6] https://www.hopkinsallchildrens.org/ACH-News/Gene...

[7] https://comprehensivesleepcare.com/2020/08/04/kid...

[8] https://www.sleepfoundation.org/children-and-slee...

[9] https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/24080494/

[10] https://www.healthline.com/health/childrens-healt...

[11] https://www.texaschildrens.org/blog/why-sleep-so-...

[12] https://health.clevelandclinic.org/how-to-tell-if...

[13] https://health.clevelandclinic.org/put-the-phone-...

[14] https://www.texaschildrens.org/blog/why-sleep-so-...