Child's sleep needs at 6 months to 2 years

The amount of sleep your child needs between the age of 6 months and 2 years will change.

If you already have a bedtime routine by 6 months, you shouldn't change it. If you haven't, introduce one.

How much sleep your child needs

Every child has a different sleep pattern. The information below is based on average amounts of sleep.

By about 6 months

Your baby needs about 10 to 11 hours sleep a night. They need 2 to 3 naps during the day. They should sleep for between 1.5 to 2 hours for each of the first two naps. The third nap will be shorter. At this age, babies are less likely to sleep after a feed.

By about 9 months

Your baby needs about 10 to 12 hours sleep a night.

Night feeds are no longer needed if your baby is fully weaned onto solid foods. But if you're breastfeeding, you may need to continue feeds at night.

Your baby will usually need 2 naps during the day of about 1.5 to 2 hours each.

From this age on, babies shouldn't sleep after 3.30pm. This is because they may not be tired enough for bedtime between 7pm to 9pm.

By about 1 year

Your baby needs about 10 to 12 hours sleep a night.

They will usually need 2 naps during the day of about 1 to 2 hours each.

By about 18 months

Your child needs about 11 to 12 hours sleep a night.

They will usually need 1 nap during the day of about 1.5 to 2 hours. This is usually around lunchtime.

Toddler bedtime routine

Your toddler will thrive when there is a regular bedtime routine. They should go to sleep and get up around the same time each day.

Make going to bed as predictable as possible.

To help your toddler to sleep:

Before they go to bed

Avoid exciting activities such as playing outside and running around just before bedtime. Do not give them a very large meal or sugary snacks or drinks just before bedtime.

Give them a supper of carbohydrates like bread, rice or cereals and some milk, which helps to produce the sleepy hormone melatonin.

Turn off all screens and the television an hour before bed.

Bed time

Brush their teeth and make sure they have a clean nappy when they go to bed.

Switch on a night light in the room so that they do not feel upset if they wake up in the dark. The light should be out of their sight. Yellow and red night lights are best. Avoid blue lights. This will give you some light to check on your child during the night.

Put them to bed drowsy but awake, so they wake up where they went to sleep.

Read a short bedtime story to help them relax before sleep.

When you leave the room

Leave the bedroom door open so that they can hear some soothing and familiar noises outside.

Comfort toys

Some children like to bring a favourite toy or blanket with them as they settle down to sleep. Make sure it is clean and not a danger to them while they are sleeping. Avoid toys with music or lights. This includes mobiles above their cot or bed.

2 to 5 years sleep routine

Every child has a different sleep pattern. You can help your child’s development by making sure they are well-rested.

By about 2 years

Your child needs about 11 to 12 hours sleep a night.

They need 1 nap during the day for between 1.5 to 2 hours. Try not to let your child nap beyond the mid-afternoon (3.30pm). This will help them to be tired and ready for sleep again by night time (7pm to 9pm).

From about 2 to 3 years

Your child needs around 11 to 12 hours of sleep a night.

They need 1 nap during the day of up to 1 hour. The length depends on your child and their activity that day. Try not to let your child nap beyond mid-afternoon. They need to be tired and ready for sleep again by night time.

From about 3 to 5 years

Your child needs around 11 to 12 hours of sleep a night.

At aged 3, they may need 1 nap during the daytime of up to 1 hour. Not all children need this nap. Some quiet time reading and playing may be enough.

When your child comes home from pre-school or their childminder, they may be very tired because of the routine and activity there. This is especially true when they start attending.

Holidays or illness or a change in routine can often upset sleep. Try get them back into a good bedtime routine as soon as you can after the event.

Bedtime routine

It is natural for children to test boundaries at bedtime, particularly between 3 to 6 years.

Many children do this at bedtime. Some children resist going to bed while others go to bed but get up repeatedly.

Follow the bedtime routine in the same way at the same time each night. Your child will then know what to expect. It will help your child feel secure and loved.

The key to success is consistency. Keep going even if you meet resistance initially, it will get easier.

To help keep your existing bedtime routine consistent:

  • have a regular bedtime
  • make sure your child has had a good meal, a drink and has been to the toilet - this will avoid requests to get out of bed
  • set clear limits and boundaries at bedtime – if you say you’ll read them 2 stories, then stick to this
  • if your child gets out of bed or comes into your room, then return them to their own bed

When to put them to bed

Don’t put your child to bed too early. A child should fall asleep within 30 minutes of going to bed. You may need to make bedtime later for a while until they can do this. Then gradually bring bedtime back by 15 minutes a night to the bedtime you want. Anytime between 7pm and 8pm is a good guide to settle your child down for the night.

Quiet time before bedtime

It is important to have a wind-down period for your child before they go to bed. This routine should last 30 to 45 minutes. Here are some tips to help:

  • Avoid television and screens in the hour before bed.
  • Have a supper.
  • Get into pyjamas.
  • Play some quiet activities such as jigsaws or colouring.
  • Brush teeth, get washed and go to the toilet.
  • Do story-time and say goodnight.
  • Tuck them into bed and turn off the lights.
  • If your child is afraid of the dark, plug in a dim night light to help them settle.

Reward them

Reward your child for staying in their own bed. Use a reward chart and have a ‘bigger’ reward if they get 3 stickers on their chart. The ‘bigger’ reward could be an activity like a trip to the park.

Where your child should sleep

Between the ages of 3 and 5, your child will be ready to move into a low bed.

Sometimes you may need to make this change sooner. For example, if your child:

  • is climbing out of the cot
  • grows too big for their cot

You need to child-proof your child’s bedroom. When they move into their own room, they will then be able to get up and move freely around their room when they wake up.

You will need to child-proof the bedroom regularly as they grow.

Children should be at least 6 years old before they are allowed to sleep on the top bunk of a bunk bed.

Page last reviewed: 1 December 2020
Next review due: 1 December 2023