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Bed time can be one of the hardest parts of being a parent of a toddler. They just aren’t as keen as us adults to go to bed for a good night’s rest which can seem like bizarre behaviour considering how pleasant sleeping is. Not only that, having your two year old fast asleep can often be the only moment of respite a parent might get in a day so they’re desperate to get it right for everyone’s sake.
The bedtime routine and a set time for them to go to sleep is essential to achieve tranquillity in the house. But, what time should a two-year-old go to bed and what time should parents start the bedtime routine?
The best time to put a two year old to bed
The best time to put a two-year-old to bed is between 6.30 and 7.30. This is a loose estimate which should suit the majority of toddlers but not all. Now we’re going to explain how we came to this answer logically and how the differences between one child and another came impact that estimate.
Two-year-old sleep requirements
Two-year-olds need between 11-14 hours of sleep in a day, which includes their napping time. Most toddlers of two years old nap for around 2 hours which leaves 9-12 hours needed in the night. If you have a two-year-old who naps for 2 hours in a day then going to bed between 6.30 and 7.30 means they will wake up at around 5.30 to 8.30 which is around normal. Not all toddlers nap but it’s advisable that they do so they don’t become overtired later.
What time they wake up
Some two-year-olds seem to get up at the same time every day regardless of what time they went to bed. Ours gets up between 5.30 and 6.30. For us to make sure he gets his -9-12 hours of sleep he should be asleep at around 7-7.30. If you have a child that seems to sleep in then perhaps start their bed time routine earlier. However, for parents with a toddler who wakes up super early – making bed time later on seems to have no effect so be warned!
A bedtime routine can take time
A solid and consistent bedtime routine is one of the most important parts of getting a two-year-old to sleep and this can take time; sometimes up to an hour and sometimes even more. Therefore, you should account for that hour and work backwards from the time you should put them to bed. If you want to put them to bed at 6.30 but it can take an hour to get them to sleep then you’d need to start the routine at 5.30 which for some is too early. For those kinds of toddlers aiming for 7-7.30 as the time, they will fall asleep makes more sense.
Late nights cause problems
Late bedtimes for children is not healthy despite how much “fun” it may seem to cuddle with them and just watch TV or play. Late bedtimes have been linked to poor quality sleep, frequent wakings and not feeling refreshed. Because of this, we feel that 7.30 and at a push 8 should be the limit. Late nights can also contribute to early mornings despite how counter-intuitive that sounds.
How much they eat and feed makes a difference
Two-year-olds who have been weaned completely are more likely to fall asleep easier, quicker and for longer. Babies who may still be breastfed or are breastfed to sleep are more likely to be harder to get to sleep and more prone to nighttime wakings. This should play a part in when you should start bedtime.
Secondly, how much they eat during the day can also help tremendously with the bedtime routine. Always offer them some food before bed (before they brush their teeth) so you reduce hunger-related wakings at night. To make this work, consider moving your tea time to accommodate their bed time. 5 or 5.30 is an ideal time.
Quality of the nutrition they get
This should surprise no one – a healthier diet promotes healthy sleep. Try to not feed your child any junk during the day or night and you will see tremendous results at bedtime. Account for this time when deciding on what time bed time will be. Filling up with food just before sleep isn’t great as the blood is sent to the stomach which can delay going to sleep. This is also why hungry milk before bed isn’t such a good idea.
Lots of exercise and stimulation
If your two years old has been idle most of the day then don’t be surprised if their sleep is poor because of it. A toddler’s day should be filled with playtime, social interaction and physical exercise. Sitting in front of screens all day is not healthy and will end up with sleeping problems! Try to have no screens for an hour before bedtime starts.
What if my two-year-old doesn’t nap?
Some toddlers may end up dropping their nap completely, others may drop a nap on a particular day unexpectedly. In this scenario, we recommending bringing bedtime earlier.
Do formula fed babies sleep better?
It has been known that formula-fed babies and toddlers can sleep better as well as toddlers who have been completely weaned from infant milk.