Today our guest author shares some in-depth facts about helping your toddler get the sleep they need. 

Often parents struggle with putting their kids to bed as they embark on developmental stages. When it comes to toddlers, particularly those between the ages of 1-3, it becomes a nightly ritual for them to resist sleep. Some toddlers wake constantly throughout the night because of night terrors, nightmares or fear due to separation anxiety. All of this affects the quality of sleep that your child gets.

Recognizing sleep deprivation

When a toddler exhibits certain signs such as: Fussiness

Clinginess Daytime sleepiness

Hyper activeness or the opposite- not talkative Unable to share with others

Refusal to eat

This could signal that your toddler is sleep-deprived. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, toddlers ages 1-2 years of age, should be getting a total of 11-14 hours of sleep in a 24-hour period. This includes a 1-3-hour nap once a day. Once they hit preschool age (around 3 years old) the recommended sleep is 10-13 hours including naps.[1] Keep in mind these are the recommended number of hours a toddler should be sleeping, but that may vary. The National Institute of Health states that based on a recent study, children sleep 84% of the time that they are in bed.

Factors that contribute to sleep problems

Research studies suggest that sleep problems are often due to a toddler finding their independence, going through a growth spurt, teething, changes or disruptions in the schedule, meltdowns, nightmares or even sharing rooms with siblings. Here are some things that you want to avoid before bedtime and throughout the day:

Do not allow your child to nap later than 4 pm

Make that your child is eating healthy, well-balanced meals during the day Avoid sugary foods and caffeine

Avoid overly stimulating cartoons or videos close to bedtime

If your child uses a bottle to sleep, it should only contain water to avoid tooth decay and bottle rot

Why quality sleep is necessary

There are 2 stages of sleep:

REM- This is also referred to as dream sleep. Your child will toss and turn, or constantly move around during this stage of sleep.

Non-REM- This is the stage of deep, uninterrupted sleep. Sleep quality is determined by how long your toddler is in the non-REM stage of sleep.

According to leading expert Judith Owens, M.D., director of the Center for Pediatric Sleep Disorders and Professor of Neurology, Harvard Medical School, growth hormones are primarily secreted during deep sleep.

Research has shown that quality sleep is needed to help your baby and toddler develop both mentally and physically. Toddlers that lack good sleep quality are prone to delays in development and increase behavioral problems. [2]

Unfortunately, there isn’t a one size fits all approach that can be used to put your toddler to sleep. There are many methods and techniques. Years ago, it was believed that you should sleep train your child by using the “cry out” method, however, now experts believe that babies and toddlers can benefit from gentler sleep training techniques, such as sound machines, reading stories and cuddling.

Here are some tips that you can use to help your toddler sleep better:

Create a soothing atmosphere

This is the first and most important thing that needs to be done. Eliminate bright lights, if your child is afraid of the dark, use a night light projector or toddler lamp. If you want to be creative with the night light projector, use a star projector to emulate twinkling stars on the walls and the ceiling of your child’s room.

Turn off the TVs or tablets. Instead, use a white noise sound machine to drown out any background noise. Make sure that the sound machine is properly set up, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics guidelines. At least 7 feet away from the bed and no more than 50 dB (decibels) high on the volume. Quality sleep is uninterrupted sleep. Sound machines help by soothing your child, masking out the noise and when coupled with a toddler lamp or night light projector, create a comfortable environment for sleeping. You can find these machines at places like Elecstars, that specialize in helping to create a sleeping atmosphere and improving sleep quality through the use of a night light projector or white noise machine.

Set a bed-time routine with a daily sleep schedule

Once a relaxing ambiance in your child’s bedroom is in place, you should make sure to set a sleep schedule for your child. Toddlers need structure and routine to prepare for bed. Here’s an example of what this would look like:

Wake up- 7 or 8 am

Nap 1- 10 am- 11:30 am*

Nap 2- 2 pm- 3:30 pm* Wind down- 7:00 pm* Bed- 8 pm

*If your toddler only takes one nap then the hours would need to be adjusted. The wind-down time if to allow time for bath, story and cuddle time.

Remember this is just a sample schedule if your child wakes up earlier or later, then the hours should be adjusted accordingly. I suggest a wind-down time so that your child gets in the habit of understanding that it’s time to go to bed for the night. My toddler is very active so to get him to settle down I have a nighttime wind-down ritual. A technique used by mom blogger Ashley Barton, “Having quiet time is essential for my kids; they need time to relax from our busy days.”

Use a sound machine

A study years ago was conducted on the effects of white sound to help infants and toddlers sleep. The study showed that 85% of infants and toddlers fell asleep within a few minutes with white noise. Why? Because the sounds are reminiscent of being in the mother’s womb. A child feels safe, and it drowns out background noise.

If your child isn’t a fan of the white noise, try other hues of sounds such as pink noise. If you are concerned with your toddler becoming attached to the sound machine, look into one that can be used both in the bedroom and while traveling.

Many sound machines function as a night light as well. You can try different sounds and lightings to find one that suits your baby. You can also find ones with timers or that are activated by the sounds of your baby. For example, you can set the timer and if it shuts off it can turn on again if your baby begins to cry.

Color of sound

If you are a parent new to using sound machines, there are many hues of sounds with each color emanating a different frequency and amplitude of the sound. There’s no evidence showing what type of noise works better than the other, it’s what your child wants.

Here’s the difference between the sounds produced by each noise:

White noise– This noise isn’t considered the most natural sound, yet it’s gentle and soothing with a balanced range of sound frequency. Examples of white noise are humming from an air conditioner or the whirring of a fan.

Pink noise– Pink noise is considered to be deeper than white noise. According to the Journal of Theoretical Biology, pink noise reduces brain waves, which contributes to stable sleeping, or uninterrupted sleeping. [3]

Frontiers in Neuroscience performed a study and found that pink noise aids in a deep sleep. Examples of this sound include rustling leaves, heartbeats, or steady rain.

The most common noises are the white noise and pink noise and you can find most combinations in sound machines. You should experiment with a variety of sound hues to determine what your child prefers.

According to Elizabeth Pantley, author of the best-selling “No-Cry Sleep Solution” parenting book series babies can benefit from better sleep with sounds of pink noise.

Tips from mommy influencers

Mommy bloggers understand how difficult it can be to put children to bed. After all, they are balancing the social demands of influencing others while raising kids. Here’s what they have to say about putting kids to bed:

Brianne Manz- mom of 3(ages 6,3, and 1)- “I used to take a by-the-book approach when you have more than one child, you have to be flexible! This approach works for us and my feeling is: If it works, it works!”

Sarah Marturano- mom of 4(ages 6,4,2, and six months)- To sum up this mom’s approach- she begins bedtime at 6:45 pm and lights out by 7:10 pm. Kids say prayers, parents read books, and mom turns on white noise. Sarah is firm with routine, “Sticking to a routine and not giving in when they want to come out of their room are both keys.”


Parents are constantly looking for baby sleeping help or the best ways to get their toddler to sleep. It’s important to remember that improving your toddler’s quality of sleep won’t happen overnight. Instead, it takes practice and consistency with bedtime routines and sleeping schedules. You should also keep in mind that in the first 2 years of your child’s life, their sleeping patterns will consistently change to align with their increase in development. Therefore, you will do a lot of trial and error to determine what works best for your child.

About the author:

Joanne Qu, one of the founders of, has devoted herself to the career of sleep quality improvement for many years. Used to published some articles that relate to the research of sleep improvement, especially focused on helping mothers and children to sleep better.