Summary

  • Preschoolers generally sleep 10 to 13 hours in a 24-hour period, and some children will no longer have daytime naps.
  • Many preschoolers will have nightmares and night terrors and may want to get into bed with you for comfort. There are a few sleep solutions and strategies to help your family.  
  • Night-time bedwetting is common at this age, as many preschoolers are no longer wearing nappies overnight.

Preschooler sleep patterns and behaviours (3 to 5 years)

Preschoolers aged between 3 and 5 years sleep between 10 to 13 hours in a 24-hour period. 

The number of day-time naps will gradually reduce and stop by the time your preschooler starts school.

Preschoolers and night-time fears

Many preschoolers experience nightmares and night terrors. This can make getting to sleep more difficult. It means preschoolers may also wake more frequently overnight and call out to you.

Your child may seek comfort from these night-time fears by getting into bed with you.

It depends on individual families as to whether this is a concern or not. 

Settling your preschooler at 3 to 5 years

By understanding your preschooler and learning their cues, you will be able to support a positive sleep pattern.

Some things you can do to develop positive sleep behaviour include:

  • recognising and responding to tired signs
  • using positive and consistent bedtime routines.
  • bedtime fading – tries to reduce night waking. It uses your child’s natural tendency to sleep for the right length of time (called sleep homeostasis) by delaying bedtime by 15 minutes each night in order to reduce the time your preschooler spends sleeping. 
  • reward charts – are tools for changing your child’s behaviour and may include wall posters or apps. They demonstrate positive behaviour or a goal that your preschooler needs to achieve.
  • cot-to-bed transition – if you notice your preschooler is attempting to climb out of their cot, it might be time to move them to a bed. This usually takes place between 2 to 3 ½ years but can be as early as 18 months. 

Create a positive sleep environment for your preschooler

It is important that your preschooler feels secure and loved. You can do this by responding to them in a warm and positive way.

Positive interactions from people shows your preschooler that they are important and are valued by adults.

By understanding and communicating with your preschooler you will learn their cues as they grow and develop. This will help to support positive relationships and sleep patterns.

If you are having difficulties, it can be helpful to track when and how long your preschooler’s sleeps each day, for a week or so. This can give you a clear idea of what might be going on.

If you’ve tried the above strategies for one to two weeks, and you are still concerned about your toddler’s sleep, talk to your family’s maternal and child health nurse, your doctor or call the Maternal and Child Health Line on Tel:13 22 29. 

Preschoolers and night-time bedwetting

Night-time bedwetting is a common issue experienced by preschoolers as they are likely to no longer wear nappies overnight.

Bedwetting may also cause increased waking overnight.

There are several different causes of bedwetting, including:

  • some children sleep deeply and do not wake up when their bladders are full
  • some children produce larger than usual amounts of urine at night, and they do not wake up in time to go to the toilet
  • some children have small bladders, which means they are more likely to wet the bed at night
  • bedwetting often runs in families. If parents wet the bed as a child, their children may also be more likely to wet the bed
  • children with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) are more likely to wet the bed.

Remember, bedwetting is part of your child’s physical and emotional development and most children will stop bed wetting as they get older.

Maternal and child health nurse visits are important

Victorian parents have free access to the Maternal and Child Health Service, which is a great support after your baby is born. 

Specially trained maternal and child health will work with your family to help you care for your child until they are ready to start school.

As part of this service, you will visit a maternal and child health nurse in your local area at 10 key ages and stages in your child’s development. These visits are important because they you an opportunity to identify and address any issues and concerns early in your child’s development. 

Visits take place:

Families can access the service at other times by telephone or through a centre visit.

Don't forget your 'green book'

Make sure you take your My Health, Learning and Development – green book with you each time you see your nurse, health professional or immunisation provider so you can jot down any issues, and record information on your baby's growth and development. 

If you don't have a green book, let your nurse know.

Where to get help

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