If Your Toddler's A Regular Sleeping Beauty, Here's What You Should Know
Most toddlers won't settle down for more than five seconds, but what about the ones who sleep more than usual?
It's no secret that sleep is an important part of a child's development, but making sure that your little one is getting the proper amount of sleep can be tricky. If your kid seemingly snoozes non-stop, between naps and nighttime, can toddlers sleep too much? With so many people offering sleep advice like "wake them before 4 p.m." or "cut their naps to two hours so they don't wake at night," it's a legit question to think about.
But luckily, it's not one you have to panic about. "Too much sleep is very rarely an issue for toddlers," board-certified pediatrician Dr. Stephanie Hemm with LifeBridge Health Pediatrics at Loch Raven tells Romper. "The important thing to figure out is if they are sleepy and dragging when they are awake."
As much as parents like to complain about their children's sleeplessness, sometimes it really does seem like toddlers can spend an awful lot of time with their eyes closed. From falling asleep in their high chair, face-first into a bowl of oatmeal, to cat napping in their car seat, some toddlers' sleep seems to happen almost around the clock.
But does this constant state of sleepiness point to a problem? Hemm tells Romper that paying attention to how your toddler behaves during the day is more indicative of an issue than the amount of time they sleep.
"You know how your children get when they are ill — they are not running around and energized. If your child is sleeping more in 24 hours than 'the norm,' ask yourself how energetic she or he is when awake," Hemm says. "If, for example, your children sleep 16 hours a day but are always on the go and exploring as soon as they wake up, much like the Energizer Bunny, they are likely absolutely fine. If on the other hand they are dragging and much more snuggly than normal, even if they are not otherwise sick, it’s a good idea to get them checked out by their pediatrician."
Daniel Lewin, associate director of Sleep Medicine at Children’s National, tells Romper, “Sleep timing is now considered to be as important as sleep duration,” citing the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) 24-hour sleep duration recommendation chart as a resource for parents. Toddlers should be getting a total of 11 to 14 hours of sleep total in a 24-hour period with the bulk of their sleep happening between 6 p.m. to 7 a.m., and one to two naps throughout the daytime, per the AAP.
But what if your toddler is sleeping more than the AAP's recommendation? This doesn't necessarily have to mean that something is wrong. There could be a simple explanation if you notice your toddler snoozing a bit extra.
"Oversleeping is quite rare in young children and some children can be outside the range of recommended sleep duration listed above," Lewin tells Romper. "Sometimes increased sleep for a few days can be a sign of a big developmental change that is underway or could be a sign of a viral infection."
Additionally, there are some signs that may indicate that your toddler (despite their seemingly extra sleep) actually needs their bedtime routine adjusted to help them get better quality rest.
"Looks for evening signs of sleepiness that can include eye rubbing, yawning, and changes in behavior that can range from withdrawal to fussiness and irritability," Lewin says. "Most children under the age of 7 should wake between 6 and 8 a.m. refreshed and energetic. If your young child has difficulty waking in the morning on a regular basis, that is an important sign of needing more sleep at night."
If your toddler is in need of sleep schedule adjustments, keep your eyes peeled for signs like extra fussiness, falling asleep in their car seat, and a dreaded second-wind in the evening. Picking the right bedtime is key to ensuring your toddler gets adequate sleep.
"A good rule of thumb is that the ideal bedtime is about a half-hour before they get really cranky," Hemm says. "Of course, you can’t back up bedtime all at once, but try 15 minutes earlier every night until you can’t go any further. If you already have a really solid bedtime routine involving any combination of bath, books, teeth brushing, low lights, rocking chair cuddling, moving this bedtime earlier is going to be much easier."
Hemm tells Romper that wintertime is a good time to try to get your toddler used to a better sleep schedule due to the shorter daylight hours, too. For parents with particularly early risers, Hemm says the way to help your kiddo get better rest is to make bedtime even earlier.
But, as always, addressing any concerning sleep issues with your pediatrician is never a bad idea."If there are sudden changes in sleep need that last for more than a few days, it is important to discuss these changes with your pediatric specialist," Lewin says.
Dr. Stephanie Hemm, LifeBridge Health Pediatrics at Loch Raven
Daniel Lewin, Ph.D., associate director of Sleep Medicine at Children’s National