One year old is my favorite age. Watching my toddler become more comfortable on her feet, learn to communicate better and grow more independent melts my mama heart.
I’ve found that 6-12 months old is usually the most disturbed period of sleep for babies (due to development, teething and a whole lot more.) But the good news is you’re past it!
This doesn’t mean that sleep problems magically disappear on your child’s first birthday. On the contrary, they can persist for quite a long time unless you step in and actively show your one year old how to sleep well.
This article will show you how to get your one year old sleeping great, day and night. And it guides you through the most common sleep problems that your one year old may encounter (like waking early, fighting bedtime, the 18 month sleep regression, and more!)
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One year old sleep patterns
If you want to get your one year old sleeping well, it helps to have a goal and know what you’re working towards. Here is what you can expect your one year old’s sleep to look like:
An age-appropriate bedtime for your 1 year old is 6.30 – 8 pm.
Research shows that a consistent and age-appropriate bedtime leads to longer sleep, less aggression and better attention in children.
• Night sleep
Your 1 year old needs 10-12 hours sleep each night.
• Night wakings
Ideally none! Toddlers can be expected to sleep through the night without feeding. (The only exception is toddlers with weight gain or growth concerns. Speak to your pediatrician if you suspect your toddler may still need night feeds.)
• Nap Schedule
Your 1 year old needs 2-3 hours of napping each day. This can be divided between 2 naps or taken as one long midday nap. (More on 1 year old nap schedules below.)
• Total sleep in 24 hours
Your toddler’s moods are the best way to gauge if he’s getting enough sleep each day. If your 1 year old sleeps 12 hours total everyday, but has frequent meltdowns or is clingy or fussy, then try to add in more sleep.
Get my 1 Year Old Sleep & Nap Schedule as a PDF
3 Essential Tips to Get Your One Year Old on a Sleep Schedule
It’s never too late to help your child learn to sleep well. Healthy and independent sleep habits can be taught at any age! If you’ve never tried getting your one year old on a sleep schedule the following 3 tips are where to start.
Start a consistent bedtime routine
The purpose of a bedtime routine is to calm your little one every evening, so that her body can relax and welcome sleep.
In fact, this research study showed that starting a consistent bedtime routine helped children fall asleep quicker, wake less often at night and improved maternal mood. (A triple win!)
Because your one year old’s bedtime routine helps her relax and fall asleep, it’s something you want to do everyday. It can calm and settle your toddler when she’s sick, teething, going through a regression and even when you travel.
My free Exhausted Mom’s Survival Kit walks you through the steps of creating a peaceful bedtime routine for your child. Doing these steps alone often helps toddlers sleep longer at night!
Teach your toddler to fall asleep without any help
The way that your child falls asleep at bedtime is the way he needs to fall back asleep every time he wakes in the night. (We all wake throughout the night, it’s completely normal.)
If your one year old is nursed, rocked, bounced, or helped to sleep in any way at bedtime, he’s going to need your direct help each time he wakes at night. This could be every 1-2 hours for some toddlers!
When your toddler learns to settle himself to sleep at bedtime, he’ll have the ability to resettle himself during the night as well. He won’t need to be nursed, rocked or bounced. He’ll know exactly how to fall back asleep on his own. It’s pretty amazing!
Babies acquire the ability to settle themselves to sleep between 5-6 months, so your toddler can definitely learn this skill! Over the years I’ve found that the majority of babies and toddlers need to be taught to fall asleep on their own, it doesn’t magically appear on your child’s first birthday. (If only!)
My program, 21 Days to Peace & Quiet, is your personalized step-by-step guide to teaching your child to fall asleep without any help and sleep through the night. Remember, your one year old can be expected to sleep 10-12 hours straight at night. Find out how!
Stick to a consistent daily schedule
Children thrive on routine. Having a predictable flow to each day gives your one year old a sense of security and stability, because she knows what’s coming. So much of your toddler’s world is new and unfamiliar, so the more familiarity you can introduce, the better.
A consistent sleep schedule helps your one year old sleep better too, because her body clock is set to sleep at predictable times. When your toddler’s naps and bedtime happen at the same time each day, she’ll fall asleep easier and sleep longer stretches.
Sleep schedules don’t have to be complicated. The most important things to do are:
- Wake your toddler at the same time every morning
- Follow awake times of 3-4 hours if your toddler takes 2 naps or awake times of 5 hours if your toddler takes one nap per day.
- Make sure your one year old’s bedtime doesn’t vary by more than 20-30 minutes each night.
The Most Common 1 Year Old Sleep Problems
- “My toddler’s waking at 4-5 am everyday. Help!”
- “How do I transition my toddler to one nap?”
- “When should we transition to a toddler bed?”
- “My toddler is fighting bedtime? What do I do?”
- “What’s the 18 month sleep regression?”
- “What’s the best way to handle separation anxiety?”
- “How can I stop my toddler waking at night?”
“My toddler’s waking at 4-5 am everyday. Help!”
A common, yet exhausting toddler sleep problem is waking too early in the morning. Even if you’re a “morning person” no amount of coffee can make waking at 5 am feel good.
Are you trapped in “toddler waking up too early” hell right now? I bet you’ve tried it all- move bedtime later, then earlier- but still your one year old continues waking at 5 am calling for you.
The good news is, you can get your toddler waking later in the morning just by making a few changes to his sleep routine.
“How do I transition my toddler to one nap?”
The typical age to transition to one daily nap is 15 months, but this transition can happen anytime between 12-18 months.
Your toddler’s readiness will depend on how well she sleeps at night. If your one year old wakes a few times at night, she may not be able to handle the longer awake times necessary to transition to one nap. Better to focus on night sleep first.
Sometimes daycare will transition babies to one nap when they reach 12 months old. Although this is usually a bit early, it’s nothing to get stressed about. Have your toddler continue taking 2 naps when home with you to prevent him becoming overtired. Soon enough, he’ll be ready for one long and restful nap each day!
“When should we transition to a toddler bed?”
The transition from a crib to a toddler bed is a milestone for your child. But be warned, it can disrupt good sleep habits and/or become a safety issue.
Crib boundaries keep your toddler safe and secure, and give you peace of mind. Once these boundaries are removed and your toddler can roam free, the opportunities for mischief are endless! That’s why I recommend keeping your child in the crib as long as possible.
The best age to transition from crib to toddler bed is 3-4 years old. At this age, your child has the cognitive maturity and impulse control to not wander around the house during the night. If your toddler starts climbing out of the crib repeatedly at 1-2 years old, then you may have to switch to a toddler bed. This article explains how to make the switch from crib to toddler bed in an easy and safe way.
“My toddler is fighting bedtime? What do I do?”
The sleepy signs are all there. Eye rubbing, yawning, and heavy eyelids. But just when you get your one year old in her crib at bedtime, she pops up laughing, crying or screaming. She’s fighting bedtime and you have no idea why. Sound familiar?
Rest assured, this is a normal (and really frustrating) phase for one year olds. A few tweaks to your toddler’s daily routine can often help bedtime become easier and more peaceful.
How to help your one year old fall asleep easily at bedtime:
- Keep your child active during the day. Spend time outdoors morning and afternoon running around in the fresh air and natural light. Visit a playground, run around the yard or go for a walk around the block. On cold or rainy days, even 15 minutes outside twice a day can work wonders with helping your toddler settle for sleep.
- Stick to your consistent daily schedule. Like all aspects of parenting, consistency is your best ally. A consistent sleep schedule ensures your one year old is tired at the same time everyday, making it easier to fall asleep.
- Set the scene for relaxation one hour before bedtime. Turn off the TV, dim the lights and lower the overall energy of your home. Relaxed environments help your toddler’s brain and body relax, a necessary precursor to sleep.
- Start a peaceful bedtime routine. A relaxing and familiar pre-sleep routine helps your one year old relax “on cue” because it’s becomes second nature for her.
- Have a firm ending to your bedtime routine. Pick a certain song or book that will signify the end of your bedtime routine. For example, you could sing ‘Twinkle Twinkle Little Star’ at the end of your bedtime routine each night. You sing it twice each night, and after that, the lights go out and your little one goes to sleep. You never deviate from this by giving in to demands to read another book or sing another song.
- A bedtime routine checklist can help your toddler visualize and better accept going to bed. (See popular bedtime charts below.) Hang one on your toddler’s bedroom wall and go through the same steps every evening. Point to each activity as you do it and say, “Look, we’re putting on pajamas and next we’ll read a book.” Once you reach the final step, your little one will understand that it’s time to fall asleep.
Popular Bedtime Reward Charts
“What’s the 18 month sleep regression?”
Sleep regressions are temporary disturbances in sleep for a child who was sleeping well. They coincide with developmental milestones. While your toddler advances in one area (such as verbal development) he may temporarily regress in another area (such as sleep.) “Temporary” can mean 1-2 weeks, which sounds like an eternity when you’re up all night with your one year old, I know!
Signs of the 18 month sleep regression:
- Shorter or more erratic naps
- Fighting bedtime
- Waking more at night
- Waking at 5 am, unable to fall back asleep
This video explains more about this sleep regression and what you can do to get through it.
“What’s the best way to handle separation anxiety”
Separation anxiety can peak around 13-14 and/or 18 months. If your little one is going through big changes like switching daycares, welcoming a new sibling or potty training, separation anxiety can increase. In times of change, your toddler’s sleep may suffer and she’ll look to you for comfort and stability.
What you can do:
Separation anxiety makes your 1 year old feel unsettled when you’re not around. It’s a normal phase of development, and not necessarily a sign that something is wrong. The intensity varies from child to child. The best way to handle it, is to spend as much time as possible with your little one.
Find moments to spend quality time together, especially before bedtime. Do a lot of cuddling, kissing, story telling, and chatting about your day. Show her that you’re there for her. Tell your child how much you love her, which helps her feel safe. Try to not be distracted by your phone or the multitude of chores waiting for you.
When it’s time to sleep, explain to her that you’re always nearby. It’s important for her to hear this, because she’s growing up and becoming independent, which typically comes with a bit of fear. If your toddler gets very upset with the idea of sleeping alone, sit in a chair in her bedroom while she falls asleep. You may need to do the same if she wakes during the night. This is a great way to keep your familiar sleep routine of her sleeping in her bedroom, but adding in some extra comfort.
Offer a lovey
A lovey can be any item that offers comfort to a child. Typically it’s a blanket, a piece of soft cloth or a stuffed animal.
It’s a “buddy” that helps your 1 year old through tough times, as she transitions from dependence to independence over the first few years of life. Encourage your toddler to cuddle and sleep with her buddy to “keep her company” in the night.
“How can I stop my toddler waking at night?”
Night wakings in one year olds are usually caused by 1 of 3 things: Hunger, inconsistent sleep schedule or the inability to fall asleep independently. Let’s discuss each factor below.
3 reasons why your toddler wakes at night:
#1 – Hunger
By 12 months old, the vast majority of toddlers can sleep 10-12 hours without needing to feed. The best way to wean your one year old off night feeds is to maximize her daytime nutrition and slowly feed less at night. My Weaning Night Feedings Guide walks you through the steps of making this happen.
#2 – Inconsistent sleep schedule
Late or inconsistent bedtimes make children sleep worse at night. That’s a fact!
The main advantage of getting your toddler sleeping at the same time each day is to set his body clock to expect (& accept) sleep more easily. Same goes for naps. When your toddler’s body is used to napping at 10 am and 2 pm everyday, it won’t come as a surprise when you close the curtains, turn on the white noise and put him in his sleep sack at nap time. His body is primed to sleep at specific times, and the more consistent you are each day, the easier he’ll settle and fall asleep.
Day and night sleep work hand-in-hand. If you want your toddler to sleep longer at night, make sure nap times and bedtime occur at the same time each day.
#3 – Not able to fall asleep independently
As I mentioned above, the way that your toddler falls asleep at bedtime is the way he’ll need to fall back asleep each time he wakes at night.
If you help your one year old fall asleep (by rocking, nursing or sitting quietly in his bedroom) he’ll need you to do this again each time he wakes.
When your toddler can go into the crib awake and settle himself to sleep on his own at bedtime, he’ll be able to get himself back to sleep when he stirs at night. At one year old, this is totally possible!
21 Days to Peace & Quiet gives you a personalized, step-by-step guide to teaching your toddler to fall asleep without any help and sleep through the night. It’s time to start sleeping well!
There you have it! A guide that walks you through the most common sleep problems for 1 year olds. If your toddler is struggling with 4-5 am wakings, transitioning to one nap, fighting bedtime, a sleep regression, or persistent night wakings- make sure to follow the tips above. Do them consistently for 1-2 weeks and I bet you see your little one’s sleep improve! Good luck to you! If you need any help, leave a comment below.