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  • Baby Sleep Coach Discusses the Most Crucial Thing About Toddler Sleep

    How much sleep does your toddler need?
    by Gabrielle Weil .
Baby Sleep Coach Discusses the Most Crucial Thing About Toddler Sleep
PHOTO BY iStock
  • In a previous article, I had written about what’s ‘normal’ and what’s not when it comes to baby sleep patterns from birth to 18 months. This time, let’s tackle sleep for kids age 18 months to 3+. 

    A review of observational studies by Galland et al. of the University of Durham, UK, in 2012, compiles data from 34 studies and looks at what is considered typical sleep durations up to age 1.

    Looking at the data of that review, what jumps out to me is the younger the baby, the more they sleep. However, there appears to be such variation within each age group as well as within each study done.

    Babies from birth up to 2 months slept an average of 15 to 16 hours, but some went on as much as 22 hours or as little as eight hours of sleep in 24 hours. In a 1-year-old, the average is somewhere around 13 hours of sleep but can go up to 16+ or as low as nine hours.

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    How much sleep your toddler needs (18 months to 3 years)

    This kind of information is where I believe parents can be led astray by searching for a textbook answer to how much sleep a toddler needs. These figures are meant to serve as rough guidelines only as every toddler has completely different family influences that can affect their ability to relax (or not) enough to welcome sleep. Those are very subjective as well, where each baby’s personality, as well as limitations, is not necessarily taken into account.

    That review of 34 compiled studies also showed sleep patterns of kids past 12 months right up to their teens. Bear in mind, however, that this data was collected with the cooperation of families who kept logbooks and answered questions, which meant the data could be subjective. One thing that did stand out was that Asian countries came out with the shorter sleep durations due to late bedtimes. 

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    In the review, 2-3 year-olds would sleep as little as seven hours in 24 hours or 17 hours in the same period! Both sets of time are excessive in terms of too little or too much sleep.

    Based on my experience, a 2-3-year-old needs a whole lot more than seven hours a day of sleep. Grown-ups adults need at least eight — I need nine to feel human — and we aren’t even busy developing and growing like a baby. But 17 hours a day is over the typical sleep pattern.

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    Early and consistent bedtimes for children of all ages right up to teens are crucial

    In the review, 2-3-year-olds get an average of 12 hours sleep and the general sleep guidelines available range from 10 to13 hours of total sleep in 24 hours with one nap.

    Those I coach in the same age group, including my own son is still 11 to 12 hour nights and a good 2 or 2.5-hour nap in the afternoon. As you can see, the nap is on the higher side.

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    It is natural to see your toddler wanting to potentially drop that one leftover nap somewhere between the ages of 3 and 5 years of age. It is a big window of time to deal with, so knowing when the right moment to forego naps can be tricky. But be sure never to drop a toddler nap for your adult conveniences.

    Toddlers resist naps more because they are simply too interested in what is going on around them. It doesn’t mean, however, that their body doesn’t need one. Toddlers have a lot of mental and physical energy, and the lack of a nap will elevate cortisol or the stress hormone.

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    Seeing nap resistance and knowing that naps can be bothersome affairs can lead to parents convincing themselves that their toddler no longer needs their rest. What are some reasons? Sometimes they drop naps when it becomes impossible to “put” your child to sleep. They give up on naps when it can get in the way of activity in the day. It is easier to replace that nap with a swim lesson or outing, but ultimately, you will not help your toddler keep those stress levels in check. 

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    That afternoon nap should only be dropped when your toddler doesn’t need it — not when you decide it will be easier without it just to keep the peace. Once that nap is dropped (my son dropped his recently, just 3 months ago, he is now nearly 4.5 years old), the night sleep needs to clock in those 11-12 hours, and bedtime remains early ideally to achieve those number of hours.

    Preschooler or school-age children need their sleep; in fact, it is even more important to respect those early and consistent bedtime routines. Just because they are no longer napping doesn’t mean that their night sleep gets cut short, too. On the contrary, they need it more than ever, right up to those pubescent teen years where the body is going through all sorts of physical, hormonal changes. These are all stages of development where the body needs that all-important sleep to be in top working order. 

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    So get those blackout blinds installed and follow that wise old saying: early to bed, early to rise!

    Gabrielle Weil is the Philippines’ pioneer and no. 1 baby sleep coach since 2015. After training with two UK-based baby sleep trainers using various sleep training methods, she began her sleep coaching practice based in Makati. She has a 95% success rate in helping families reconnect through sleep and is currently completing a UC San Diego Psychology course on the Science of Parenting. Her baby sleep coaching services are done on a one-on-one basis. She is also the only Baby Language™ instructor in the Philippines, who holds regular workshops for parents about to give birth or with newborn babies from 0-3 months of age. For more information on these workshops and her sleep coaching services, visit her on Instagram @babysleep.ph or Facebook @BabySleepPH.Philippines

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