Toddlers Want To Sleep

This week I saw a little two-year-old ask her mom if she could “go nap”. She went happily to her bed, snuggled up with her blanket and favorite stuffed animal. She slept for 2 hours and woke up happy and smiling!

Our toddlers want to sleep. It feels amazing to be well-rested. 

Our children love to wake up full of energy and happy. Having enough sleep is an amazing feeling and well-rested children learn to love it.

Yes, it is possible to have a child ask for sleep. It shows the child has begun to recognize the feeling of being tired and that the solution is sleep. What a joy to have a two-year-old that asks for a nap instead of a two-year-old that screams and fights a nap or bedtime.

Dealing with life is difficult while feeling tired.

Children (and adults) become grumpy when they are tired. Toddler emotions are big and challenging for every toddler to manage. If you are the parent of a two-year-old you have seen your child throw a temper tantrum or have a “meltdown”. Those big toddler emotions are much more difficult for a tired child to control. A tired toddler is miserable and makes sure everyone knows it. Toddlers want to sleep to make them feel happy.

How do you get a well-rested child who willingly goes to bed?


The timing of sleep is very important. We all have a body clock which is set by the sun. There are times the body prepares for sleep and times the body prepares for awake time. The body prepares through chemical and temperature changes. Sleep is much easier when it is connected with the body preparation. Sleep connected with the body clock does a better job of restoring the body and brain. This sleep is more refreshing and restorative.

When sleep follows a similar schedule each day, the body begins to anticipate sleep. If you have a regular bedtime for your toddler of 7 PM; their body will begin to anticipate sleep at 7 PM. This helps the toddler be ready for sleep instead of fighting bedtime.

   2. Place

Motion sleep in the car or stroller keeps the child in light sleep. It prevents the deep, restorative sleep. Sleep is more restorative when the child is sleeping in their bed. They have the freedom to position and move their body to find what is comfortable when in their bed.

The sleep environment should contribute to sleep. I recommend a dark place for sleep because it contributes to the release of the “go to sleep” hormones. It is helpful to have white noise. The familiar sound becomes associated in their brain with sleep. Plus the white noise helps to block out other sounds which might wake your child.

  3. Process

We are all creatures of habit. We need a familiar process to prepare for sleep. It sends a message to our bodies that it is time to sleep. I encourage a specific routine before bedtime and a shorter routine prior to naps.

It is good to have a calming time prior to sleep. Don’t expect your child to go from running and jumping straight to sleeping.

Turn off all screens at least 30 minutes before sleep. The blue lights from screens wake up the brain.  The body and brain need some preparation for sleep.

4. Teach

Sleep is a skill for children to learn. Each child needs to learn to go from the awake state to the sleep state without assistance. Learning to manage their own sleep is a necessary skill for life. Your assistance to put your child to sleep is not sustainable.

Rock a child to sleep and they will sleep for an hour but teach a child to sleep and they will sleep all night.

Toddlers want to sleep. It helps them feel independent when they can go to sleep without assistance and continue their sleep through the night.

Helping Babies Sleep

Arlene Fryling

Arlene is a registered nurse and certified sleep consultant for children 0-5 years. She has cared for premature, sick, and many healthy babies. For over 15 years she has taught expectant parents how to care for their newborns through classes teaching basic baby care, infant massage classes, and moderating support groups for new moms as they deal with parenting issues.

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