Bedtime Struggles with Toddlers and Preschoolers

Is your child difficult to arouse in the morning, cranky during the day, falling asleep during evening drives, or does he think he is a night owl?  Sleep is essential for behavior, learning, memory, attention span, emotional health, mental & physical health and quality of life! 

bedtime struggles

How much sleep a child needs is unique, but the American Academy of Pediatrics gives us the following guidelines to help us determine whether our child is getting enough sleep. 

  • Infants need 12-16 hours of sleep (includes naps)
  • Children ages 1-2 need 11-14 hours of sleep (includes naps)
  • Children 3-5 need 10-13 hours of sleep (includes naps)
  • Children age 6-12 need 9-12 hours of sleep

Read on for some tips on helping your child get the sleep he or she needs!

  • Observe your child’s patterns and set a bedtime. What time do they start to become drowsy? Start the bedtime routine 30 minutes before.
  • On holidays and weekends, if you deviate from your child’s normal bedtime, try to do so by no more than 1-2 hours.
  • Turn off screens and dim lights 30-60 minutes before bedtime
  • Establish a doable bedtime routine, for example, Brush, Book & Bed!
  • Eliminate caffeine after 12pm; stay away from food dyes
  • Do at least an hour of physical activity with your child during the day (at least 3 hours before bedtime)
  • Use tools such as a night light, “OK to Wake” clock, “monster spray”, security blanket or stuffed animal
  • If your child wakes up in the night, a drink of cold ice water can help them settle back to bed
  • Consider eliminating day time naps if your child is ready
  • Temperature – is it too hot or too cool in your child’s room?
  • If your child wakes during the night, keep the lights dim and the environment quiet. A sip of cool water, a snuggle, and a reassuring touch can help him or her go back to sleep


As always, talk to your child’s pediatrician if you have any questions or concerns about your child’s sleep habits!