18 month old sleep schedule: Bedtime and nap schedule

Amy Bassett, BA, CLC, ALC, IBCLC, RLC / Pediatric Sleep Consultant & Lactation Consultant
18 month old sleep schedule

18 months can be an exciting time for parents and toddlers alike. At this age, your little one is probably more toddler than baby, as you might have discovered from their newfound concept of independence. Playful and energetic, 18 month olds are just starting to understand that being silly can elicit a reaction, and often use this to their advantage - particularly at naptime!

Your not-quite-baby-but-somehow-almost-teenager may also be finally settling into a more predictable schedule. Now that they’re napping just once a day, you’ll also find getting out of the house much easier, making it possible to attend baby classes, or just run a few errands together. Read on to learn more about your toddler’s sleep needs, creating healthy sleep habits, and how to navigate the dreaded 18 month sleep regression.


IN THIS ARTICLE


18 month olds need an average of 13 - 14 hours of total sleep per day. Getting enough sleep is essential to your child’s health and wellbeing; it’s important for learning, memory, and behavior. 

You’ve probably already witnessed firsthand how a short nap can derail an afternoon, which is why we recommend keeping an afternoon nap at this stage. At this age, pediatric sleep experts recommend children get at least 11 hours of nighttime sleep, and 2 - 3 hours of sleep during the day.

[Note: for children who were born early, we go by their adjusted age for sleep development.]

During the 18 month sleep regression, children who previously slept well may begin fighting their nap, taking short naps, crying at bedtime, having difficulty falling to sleep without help, waking frequently during the night, waking up early for the day. Or a delightful mix of all the above, just hopefully not within the same day… 

First: take a deep breath. We promise this too shall pass and you’re not the only one making bleary-eyed “how long can toddlers go without sleep” Google searches.

This sleep regression usually lasts a few weeks, and is linked to your toddler’s increased independence, teething pain, as well as separation anxiety. While it’s not fun for you, they’re genuinely not doing it out of spite (though you might wonder). To help your child through this regression, it’s important to remain consistent and avoid falling into bad habits. Although bedtime may be more of a struggle, be patient and committed to having your child fall asleep independently.  

Although your 18 month old may struggle to fall asleep for naps on occasion, your toddler won’t be ready to give up napping for quite some time. Most children continue to need a regular daily nap until at least age 3. Ensure you’re spending some time just before nap doing calming activities in a dimly lit room to help their bodies and minds adjust from playtime.

18 Month Sleep Schedule Chart

Note: Sleep needs vary by child and this chart should be viewed as an example.

A typical naptime schedule for 18 months old should include 1 nap in the middle of the day approximately 5 hours after waking for the day. If you’d like a more predictable nap schedule, consider waking your child within the same 30 minute window each day.

18 month olds should nap for  2 - 3 hours. If your child is consistently napping for less than 2 hours each day, consider if they could be waking due to hunger or environmental factors, like loud noises, too much light, or room temperature. 

If you feel hunger could be the issue, try moving lunch to just before the nap, offering milk with lunch, and focusing on filling foods. To rule out environmental factors, we suggest darkening your child’s room using blackout curtains, playing white noise continuously throughout the nap, and lowering the air. The ideal temperature for sleep is between 68-72F (20-22C).

18 month olds need 1 nap. If your child is struggling to make it to bedtime without becoming overtired, consider moving bedtime earlier (but no earlier than 6:00 PM).

Morning rise6:00 AM
Nap11:00 AM - 1:00 PM (2 hour nap) 5 hours of of awake time before nap
Get ready for bed6:00 PM
Asleep6:30 PM 5.5 hours of awake time before bedtime
18 month sleep schedule toddler sleep

To help your child unwind and prepare for sleep, make the hour before bedtime calm and relaxing by dimming the lights and lowering the temperature. Spend the hour or so before bedtime leading your 18 month old through a nightly routine consisting of the same activities, in the same order. It's not always possible, but staying consistent whenever you can will help your toddler know what to expect and signals that sleep is on the horizon.

Since the blue light from TVs, tablets, and phone screens interfere with melatonin production and make it more difficult to fall asleep, you’ll also want to avoid screen time in the hour leading up to bedtime. While bathtime can sometimes turn into party time, it’s a great way to signal the beginning of the evening shift. And let’s face it, it is often necessary to remove the paint/dirt/spaghetti sauce from those tiny tots. (If you’re wondering when was the last time you even had spaghetti, that’s normal too.)

18 month olds benefit from a regular schedule, including 11 - 12 hours of nighttime sleep. Bedtime should be fairly consistent at this age, with most 18 month olds going to bed between 6:00 and 8:00 PM. If your toddler is struggling to fall asleep at bedtime, consider whether the awake period between nap and bedtime is age-appropriate. Insufficient awake time before bed often leads to lots of playtime in the crib before eventually falling asleep, whereas overtired toddlers are more likely to cry.

18 month old baby sleep FAQ

Q: My child has become clingy at sleeptimes, and cries when I leave the room. What can I do to stop my 18 month old from crying?

A:

Many 18 month olds will experience increased separation anxiety, which can lead to issues falling asleep by themselves. In order to help your child feel more comfortable falling asleep on their own, focus on daytime activities to decrease separation anxiety, such as games like hide and seek. This is a great way to instill confidence in toddlers that even though you can’t see someone, they can be trusted to return. Start out simple by staying in the same room as your toddler, and letting them see you hide behind the curtains or under the covers. Make the game fun and exciting by being very expressive and silly when they find you! When it’s their turn to hide, you can help them find their hiding place at first. Once your toddler is comfortable with the game, begin expanding their search area to a neighboring room.

Q: My toddler has major separation anxiety at night. Should I introduce a lovey or stuffed animal?

A:

Separation anxiety is a normal phase and a lovey can be a great way to help ease some of your toddler’s fears and big emotions. If they don’t already have a favorite blanket or stuffed animal to sleep with, this could be a good time to introduce one. To help your child form an attachment to their new “lovey,” include the lovey in your sleep routines, and tuck it in with your child as you put them to sleep. You might want to buy a spare if they grow inseparable, though - future you will thank you later.

Q: My child still takes a bottle before bed. How do I wean my toddler from the bedtime bottle?

A:

It’s not uncommon for toddlers to be attached to their bedtime bottle, so it's understandable why you might be apprehensive about going cold turkey. Instead, make the bottle increasingly unappealing. If your child usually drinks warm milk, begin offering cold milk instead. Next, gradually dilute the milk with water. Then, slowly reduce the amount each night by 1 ounce. To ensure your child doesn’t wake up hungry in the middle of the night, you can offer milk with dinner and/or a protein-rich snack before bed.

Created Jul 20 2021