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Managing sleep routines with toddlers

Good sleep is important for your child’s physical and mental wellbeing.

As every parent knows, a child that’s short on sleep can swing between being grumpy and hyperactive.

How much sleep does my child need?

  • Babies 4 to 12 months old =12 to 16 hours including naps
  • Toddlers 1 to 2 years old = 11 to 14 hours including naps
  • Children 3 to 5 years old = 10 to 13 hours including naps
  • Children 6 to 12 years old = 9 to 12 hours
  • Teenagers 13 to 18 years old = 8 to 10 hours

A relaxing bedtime routine is an important way to help your child get a good night’s sleep. Sleep needs change as your child gets older, but whether you’re dealing with a 2-year-old toddler or a stubborn teenager, research shows that a consistent bedtime routine24 helps make sure your child gets enough sleep. Whatever activities you choose, try to do the same ones every day in the same order so your child knows what to expect.

Doing the same relaxing things in the same order and at the same time each night helps promote good sleep.


A typical bedtime routine might include:

  • Turning off computers, TV screens25, video games26, and other bright lights
  • A warm (not hot) bath will help your child relax and get ready for sleep.- Keeping lights dim encourages your child’s body to produce the sleep hormone, melatonin.
  • Once they’re in bed, encourage your child to read quietly or listen to some relaxing music, or read a story together.- You could also suggest your child tries this relaxing breathing exercise before bed.

The best time to put your child to bed is when they’re sleepy, not when they’re already asleep. This helps them learn how to fall asleep on their own. If preschool children wake up in the middle of the night, walk them back to their bed. It’s best not to let infants sleep in your bed, as co-sleeping increases the risk of sudden infant death syndrome.

  • Avoid screens in the bedroom
  • Tablets, smartphones, TVs and other electronic gadgets can affect how easily children get to sleep.
  • Older children may also stay up late or even wake in the middle of the night to use social media.
  • Try to keep your child’s bedroom a screen-free zone, and get them to charge their phones in another room.
  • Encourage your child to stop using screens an hour before bedtime.

Your child’s bedroom:

  • Your child’s bedroom should ideally be dark, quiet and tidy. It should be well ventilated and kept at a temperature of about 16 to 20C. Setting the thermostat to a slightly cooler temperature at night helps with sleep.
  • Fit some thick curtains to block out any daylight. If there’s noise outside, consider using a white noise machine to mask outside sounds
  • Making the bedroom, and especially the mattress, a no-screen zone, even during the day.

What to do in the day to help sleep

  • Arranging a balanced schedule with interspersed periods of rest and play.
  • Providing a healthy diet.
  • Avoiding caffeine, large meals, and sugary treats before bedtime opting for a healthy bedtime snack if necessary

It’s important to give your child regular exercise, but don’t fall into the trap of exhausting your child to have them sleep better at night. More often than not, this will make them overtired and make it harder to fall asleep.

Babies sleep, because they have yet to develop a circadian rhythm, Very young babies rarely sleep through the night, and this is normal. If they don’t fall back asleep naturally, try soothing them by talking or with touch, without picking them up. If they continue to cry, they may need feeding or changing. Quickly and quietly fix the problem, using only a nightlight if possible, and calmly leave the room. Please see the below links for further information:

The Sleep Foundation
Relaxation tips – The sleep charity

ChatHealth Logo

Southern Health NHS Foundation Trust runs a confidential secure text messaging service for parents of children aged 0-19 years called ChatHealth. The service operates Monday to Friday from 9am to 12pm, excluding bank holidays. All texts will be responded to by a public health nurse (health visitor/school nurse) within 24 hours. Outside of the service working hours, you’ll receive a message back to inform you that your text will be responded to once the line reopens.

Should you require urgent health advice in the meantime, please contact your GP, visit an NHS walk-in centre or call NHS 111. For emergencies, dial 999 or visit A&E.

This page was last reviewed on 11-06-2021

This page will be next reviewed on 11-06-2024