Summary

  • At this age, toddlers generally sleep 12 to 13 hours in a 24-hour period, including daytime naps of 1 to 2 hours.
  • Some toddlers may still wake at night and will need you to comfort them, especially if they have night time fears. 
  • Once you notice your toddler attempting to climb out of their cot, it is time to move them to a bed. This usually happens around 2 to 3½ years but can be as early as 18 months. 

Toddler sleep patterns and behaviours (2 to 3 years)

Between the ages of 2 and 3 years, toddlers often sleep 12 to 13 hours in a 24-hour period.

This includes 1 to 2 hours during the day, which helps to promote optimal learning and development.

A number of sleep-related changes commonly occur in this age group. This includes:

  • a decrease in daytime naps
  • longer periods of sleep overnight
  • often a decrease in night waking.

Every child is different, so don’t worry too much if your toddler has different sleep patterns to those described here. If you are concerned about your child, contact your local maternal and child nurse, your doctor or the Maternal and Child Health Line on Tel: 13 22 29.

Toddler sleep rhythms at 2 to 3 years

Around this time, your toddler may reduce the number and length of daytime naps.

As toddlers’ brains are developing quickly, they may develop night-time fears and may need additional comfort.

They may still resist going to sleep at night and want to stay up with the family.

Settling your toddler at 2 to 3 years

By understanding and connecting with your toddler you will learn their cues and be able to support positive sleep patterns.

Routines and environments play a big part in helping toddlers get to sleep – they need a cue to tell them when it is sleep time, which is usually something in their external environment. It could be a dark room or having familiar objects around them. 

Limiting screen time at night and having a regular bedtime routine (such as bath, book, song and bed) can help to prevent and reduce settling difficulties and waking at night.

Some strategies you can use to develop positive sleep behaviour include:

  • Recognising and responding to tired signs
  • Using positive and consistent bedtime routines
  • Parental presence – using your presence as a safety signal to reduce your toddler's anxiety by sleeping in their room
  • Bedtime fading – to try and reduce night waking in older toddlers. 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 toddler spends sleeping. 

It can be helpful to track your toddler's sleep for a week or so.

This can give you a clear idea of what might be going on. 

Moving your toddler from cot to bed 

Once you notice your toddler is attempting to climb out of their cot, it is time to move them to a bed. This is usually between 2 and 3 ½ years of age but can be as early as 18 months. 

It is important to make sure that your home and bed is safe for your toddler.

Moving from a cot to a bed can bring about new difficulties at bedtime, and toddlers in this age group may go through a stage of calling out or getting out of bed.

If you’ve tried the above strategies for 1 to 2 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. 

Typical sleep behaviour information in community languages

This fact sheet is available for download in the following community languages:

A full list of all our sleep behaviour act sheets available in community languages can be found here.

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. 

Where to get help

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Last updated: January 2020

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