You want them to sleep but it’s the last thing on their mind. So how do you get a silent night?

Sleep – or rather, lack of it – is a common problem for parents. For your toddler, the world is an exciting place with tons of new things to learn every day, so sleep can seem like a dull and unwanted interruption.

At this age, your child will also realise that they’re an individual, and separate from mum and dad. So if you leave, they may fear being left alone for good – a scary thought indeed.

On top of all this, it is becoming apparent to your playful bundle of joy that playing up at bedtime is a great way to wind up the grown-ups. But don’t despair – peaceful nights are a few steps away.

Routine matters

The single most important thing you can do to ensure that your toddler, and the rest of the family, get a good night’s sleep is to establish a simple and consistent bedtime routine. It’s up to you to develop your own regime.


Talk to your child about how they are going to get ready for bed now.

  • Play a quiet game, and talk about what you did today and any plans you have for tomorrow.
  • Give them a warm bath, put the lights on low, keep distractions to a minimum and clean their teeth.
  • Put pyjamas on them in their bedroom.
  • Finish with a story (again, nothing too exciting) or a gentle song or rhyme.
  • Kiss and cuddle them and say ‘Goodnight’ or ‘I love you’ then leave the room with confidence and without fuss.

Time for a nap?

Toddlers need a daytime nap or two. Typically, a 1-year-old needs about an hour in the morning and in the afternoon. A 2-year-old usually needs an hour or so in the afternoon, but by the age of 3 most tots are fine with a short nap in the afternoon or none at all.

Somewhere between 15 and 18 months your child may reach a stage where one nap doesn’t seem enough but two is too much. The same may happen around the age of 3, when they can drop their nap altogether. It sometimes helps during these transition periods to make bedtime a bit earlier.

Even if your tot doesn’t actually sleep during the day, some quiet time after lunch should help to relax and revive them.

Sleep suggestions

  • Try to keep things calm and quiet the hour or so before bedtime, so they get in the mood to rest. Switch off the TV at least an hour before their bedtime.
  • Avoid rough and tumble games, scary stories, TV programmes and electronic games.
  • Warn them it’s nearly bedtime so that it doesn’t come as a surprise.
  • Never confuse the issue of sleeping by sending your little one to their cot or bed as a punishment.
  • Stick to a regular bedtime. Kids sleep best if they go to bed and get up at around the same time every day.
  • Changes in routine – as a result of teething, illness, the arrival of a new baby, Christmas or a holiday – can disrupt sleep patterns. If you behave consistently, they’ll soon go back to their usual routine.
  • If your child seems irritable during the day it’s likely that they’re overtired. Try putting them to bed slightly earlier.

Remember your sleep is very important too.

A good night’s sleep can really help your emotional and mental wellbeing. Don’t be afraid to ask for some help to allow you to catch up on some sleep or get a rest.

For more information on sleeping issues and solutions please visit our can’t sleep, won’t sleep page.

Last updated: 15 April 2019