21 month old sleep schedule: Bedtime and nap schedule

Amy Bassett, BA, CLC, ALC, IBCLC, RLC / Pediatric Sleep Consultant & Lactation Consultant / Updated Nov 30, 2021
21 month old sleep schedule

By 21 months, your toddler likely has quite the vocabulary! At this age, many toddlers know at least 50 words and are able to put two words together to form short phrases. Toddlers in this age group also have lots of energy and seem to be constantly moving. With so much activity and language development occurring, it’s important for your child (and you!) to have some downtime during the day to rest and recharge. Well-timed naps can also cut down on temper tantrums and eliminate overtiredness at bedtime.

Curious just how much sleep your 21 month old needs, and what an ideal schedule looks like at this age? Read on to learn more about your child’s sleep needs, including recommended naptime and bedtime for 21 month olds.


IN THIS ARTICLE


21 month olds need at least 12.5 hours of total sleep per day to be sufficiently rested. Pediatric sleep experts recommend aiming for at least 11 hours of nighttime sleep, and 1.5 - 2.5 hours of daytime sleep.

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

Around 21 months old, many toddlers will gain another set of molars. Due to their size and the additional time they take to come through the gums, emerging molars can be more painful for children than other baby teeth. 

During this time, it’s not uncommon for toddlers to need more comforting, especially at night. To reduce pain and inflammation caused by teething, consider feeding your child frozen treats such as blueberries, yogurt popsicles, or homemade milk popsicles before bed. If your child seems especially uncomfortable as the molars emerge, check with your pediatrician before using any over the counter teething remedies or pain medication.  

Although it can be tempting to fall back on old habits when your child isn’t feeling well—especially when it involves snuggles from your newly independent baby—be careful to stick to those strong sleep habits you worked hard for. Sare some extra cuddles and stories before bedtime, but stick to having your child fall asleep (and back to sleep if they experience a night waking) on their own at sleep times.

Although your toddler may not show obvious signs of needing a nap, it’s still important to keep to your nap schedule. Skipped naps are the leading cause of tantrums and can make for difficult evenings. Overtired toddlers may also have difficulty staying awake at dinner, or be too cranky to eat well, causing them to wake up in the night, and keep that cycle going. 

A well-timed nap ensures your child has adequate time to rest after a busy morning, and will help you make it to an age-appropriate bedtime.

blog 21 month sleep schedule sample

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

21 month olds should nap once per day. At this age, we like to see about 5.25 hours of awake time before the nap. 

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Total daytime sleep for a toddler should be 1.5 - 2.5 hours for 21 month olds. 

You can expect your toddler to need 1 nap, usually around 1.5 - 2.5 hours. If they’re consistently fighting their nap, keep encouraging that downtime in their crib for them. Even resting quietly can help them recharge, and sometimes they’ll surprise you by suddenly falling asleep, just as you think they’re going to avoid nap entirely.

Morning rise7:00 AM
Nap12:15 PM - 2:15 PM (2 hour nap) 5.25 hours awake time before nap
Get ready for bed7:15 PM
Asleep8:00 PM 5.75 hours awake time before bedtime
Morning rise6:00 AM
Nap11:15 AM - 12:45 PM (1.5 hour nap) 5.25 hours awake time before nap
Get ready for bed5:45 PM
Asleep6:30 PM 5.75 hours awake time before bedtime
21 month old sleep schedule 2

Although toddlers love their independence, they thrive on routine. Having a consistent bedtime routine helps your child know what to expect, and helps them feel confident and in control. The average bedtime routine at this age is typically 30 - 45 minutes long. 

A typical routine consists of a bath, brushing teeth, putting on pajamas, saying goodnight to everyone, reading a book or two, and singing lullabies. When planning bedtime, work backward from your child needing time to fall asleep (about 10 - 20 minutes), plus time for the routine itself. For independent toddlers, add in extra time for the tasks they like to do themselves that inevitably take twice as long.

If it’s taking longer than 10 - 20 minutes for your child to fall asleep, consider adjusting the awake period before bed. Other reasons it may be taking your toddler a long time to fall asleep include evening sugar intake, light entering the room, or distractions such as toys in the crib.

21 month olds need at least 11 hours of sleep per night to support the brain’s executive function, and ensure proper baby development. For many families, this means bedtime is between 6:00 - 8:00 PM. 

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21 month old baby sleep FAQ

Q: My child fell asleep in the car just before bedtime. Should we do our usual bedtime routine or skip it?

A:

At this point, it’s best to fast forward to bedtime. Attempting to carry out your usual bedtime routine will likely end in tears...sometimes for both of you. Keep the lights low as you brush your toddler's teeth and get them dressed for bed, quickly say goodnight, and let them fall back asleep.

Q: My child wakes up asking for water in the middle of the night. What can I do?

A:

Although it’s understandable you want to grab them a quick glass of water, late-night water requests can be disruptive to your toddler’s sleep, and can start to form a habit you don’t want to start. Enter: the independence they seek! Keep a spill-proof cup of water within reach of their sleep space.

Q: We’re planning a vacation soon. What can we do to avoid getting off track?

A:

First, consider bringing a few items along that will help your child feel at home while sleeping in a new environment, like their lovey, familiar bedding, and a white noise machine. Pack some of their favorite books to read before bed, and give them ample time to become familiar with their temporary sleep space - testing out a new bed, playing with toys in the crib, etc. If you’re heading to a different timezone, experts recommend keeping your child on their usual wake and bedtime schedule, unless you’re staying more than 4 - 5 days or you’re traveling multiple time zones. If you plan to adjust to local time, do so right away, and use sunlight to help signal when it’s time to sleep. Keep in mind that toddlers with healthy sleep habits are less likely to get off track, so try your best to ensure your child is well-rested leading up to the trip.