Potty training and toddler sleep routine: Finding the balance

Created Apr 17, 2024
Potty training and toddler sleep routine: Finding the balance | Huckleberry

By now you may have noticed that most big developmental milestones in your child’s life also impact sleep: sitting up, walking, talking, and — you guessed it! —  potty training too. Who wants to sleep when there are exciting new skills to focus on? While frustrating, rest assured that if potty training disrupts your toddler’s sleep routines, it’s only temporary. 

However, it can be tricky to find the right balance between learning the lifelong skill of using the toilet and ensuring your child gets the rest they need. Sleep is precious and overtired toddlers will typically have a harder time during the potty training process too. To help you navigate this sometimes tricky time, we’ll cover the connection between toilet training and sleep, offer parenting tips for balancing sleep and potty training, and help you create sleep and bathroom schedules that work for your family. 


Understanding the connection between potty training and sleep

How potty training can impact sleep

Tips for establishing a daily schedule to accommodate sleep and going to the bathroom 

Managing potty training anxiety

Nighttime potty training readiness

Tips for potty training consistency and patience 


Potty training and toddler sleep FAQ

It can be helpful to frame potty training as a major developmental milestone [1] — like walking or talking. As with any significant milestone mastery or big changes, potty training can lead to sleep regressions in toddlers. This usually means there’s a sudden, temporary shift in sleep patterns. If this happens when your child is potty training, rest assured that this is temporary. Following an age-appropriate, consistent sleep schedule and focusing on healthy sleep habits can help your child get back on track sooner. 

However, if you see that potty training is majorly affecting sleep for a prolonged period, this may be a clue that there’s something else at play. For example, undue stress and anxiety from potty training or another external factor could be impacting sleep quality for your toddler. 

In general, if your child has not been sleeping well, this may derail the potty training process. You may want to consider working on sleep skills before embarking on the transition to potty training.  

If your kiddo is well-rested and has good sleep habits and skills, it’s more likely that potty training will go well. Their internal clock will be regulated and this will make it easier to have a predictable schedule and routine for the bathroom too.  

On the other hand, when a child is overtired it will likely be much harder to integrate learning how to use the toilet. Overtired kids have a harder time falling asleep and staying asleep when they haven’t gotten adequate rest. As a result, not sleeping well can temporarily weaken [2] the part of the brain that manages planning and problem-solving, which are important when potty training.  

Lack of sufficient sleep can also impact a child’s mood and energy levels. You may be met with temper tantrums and resistance to potty training in general, especially if your little one hasn’t slept well. 

Toddlers are very good at finding reasons to prolong bedtime and potty training provides them with plenty of stall tactics! They can usually quickly figure out that if they say they have to poop right before bed, this leads to sitting on the toilet for a while instead of heading right to bed. It can be helpful to build a bathroom trip into your child’s bedtime routine to help cut down on this behavior.

Toddler sleep can also be impacted by potty training if your child wakes up early from naps or overnight and uses needing to go to the bathroom as an excuse to get out of bed. The nighttime bathroom visits tactic may be more common in children who already have trouble with sleep before they start potty training. 

Typically daytime potty training comes before removing diapers for naps and overnight sleep. If you choose to potty train during sleep times (or forget to put a Pull-up or diaper on your child before bed, which happens), bedwetting can often lead to disrupted sleep. It also leads to extra laundry and less sleep for you! 

Many children have a predictable time of day when they typically poop. Try to have your child sit on the toilet around this time consistently every day, which can signal to their body that it’s time to poop. This routine can help minimize sleep disruptions and bedtime stall tactics if your toddler typically needs to poop right before naps or bedtime.

It can be helpful to build a trip to the bathroom into your child’s bedtime rituals. Routines help toddlers feel secure and stable [3]. This scheduled potty trip is also important when they eventually aren’t wearing a diaper or pull-up and ideally stay dry during sleep times. 

Toddlers figure out pretty quickly that if they say they have to use the bathroom right before they’re due to sleep, they get to stay up a bit longer. And it works! Even if you’re pretty confident they don’t really need to poop or pee, you don’t want to risk an accident. If this happens often at your house, try using a 10-minute timer. Give them this 10-minute window to use the toilet and if they do, great. If not, then continue with the rest of their sleep routine. It’s often easier to build 10 more minutes into bedtime than have it unexpectedly drag out. 

Potty training may already cause some stress and anxiety in toddlers. After all, it’s a new skill that involves strange noises and new experiences like sitting on a toilet and pooping without the comfort of their diaper. There can also be stress around accidents and being constantly prompted to use the toilet. Any stress and anxiety around this transition will likely be intensified if a child is also having sleep issues, which can then derail potty training strategies. 

If this happens, it can be helpful to take a nice, long break from potty training where you don’t talk about the toilet at all unless your child brings it up and you follow their lead. This may be a good period to work on sleep skills and habits to make sure your child isn’t overtired when you start potty training again. After this break, the hope is that there’s been enough time away that the stress and anxiety have dwindled and you can work on toilet training again. 

You may be excited to completely ditch diapers when your toddler starts potty training. However, children typically work on daytime potty training first. It can often take 6 - 12 months for children to work up to dryness during sleep times. And sometimes the ability to have the bladder wake up the brain overnight doesn’t develop until kids are older. Most children can control their bladder well overnight by age 5 [4]. Studies have shown that about 15% of 5 and 7 year olds [5] wet the bed. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics [6], bedwetting doesn’t require medical intervention until the age of 8. 

A good way to gauge whether or not your toddler is ready for nighttime potty training is if they have bone-dry diapers every single morning for at least two weeks. Then you may consider removing diapers or pull-ups overnight. The same goes for naps. Naps can be a good place to start sleep time potty training, as children may be ready to wear underwear for naps sooner than overnight because it requires staying dry for a much shorter period. 

Accidents are bound to happen, especially in the first few weeks of potty training. While frustrating, it’s common for this process to be a bit of a roller coaster. Unless you think that using the toilet is adding too much stress and anxiety to you and your child, try to be consistent. For example, instead of putting your little one back in diapers for a long car trip, consider making a few extra stops for bathroom breaks instead. Taking steps back in the process can send mixed messages to children and lead to regressions

It’s also helpful to be consistent with toilet and sleep routines. Creating good habits around using the bathroom before naps and overnight sleep will set your little one up for success long-term too. If you’d like personalized sleep guidance for your child, especially as they transition to potty training, consider submitting for a sleep plan through Huckleberry Premium. Our step-by-step plans are tailored to your child’s needs as well as your family’s goals. 

Toddlers seem to pick up on emotions from their caregivers —  if you’re anxious and unsure about the potty training process or get upset, children may take on those feelings. This can happen around sleep too! Toddler emotional regulation [7] is impacted by caregiver emotional regulation, so it can be helpful to be as calm and patient as possible through the potty training process. 

To minimize battles around using the potty before bedtime, you might consider building trips to the bathroom into your daily routine. This could look like sitting on the toilet upon wakeup, before or after meals, and before you leave the house and after you arrive back home to set expectations around using the toilet throughout the day. Routines can give toddlers confidence and a sense of control [8], which are key during the potty training process. To help determine typical potty times, check out our potty training tools in the Huckleberry app

If you and/or your toddler are feeling stressed or anxious during the potty training process, consider taking a break. This can be especially helpful if the transition to the toilet is also impacting sleep. Spend 3 - 4 weeks not talking about the potty and come back to it when everyone is feeling better — and well rested too! 

  • Potty training is a major toddler development milestone and this transition may impact sleep temporarily. However, sleep disruption should only last a couple of weeks. Maintaining good sleep hygiene and consistent sleep schedules can help your child get back on track sooner. 

  • Children may use the transition to using the toilet as an excuse to delay bedtime and/or wake up in the middle of the night to go to the bathroom. Creating good toilet and sleep routines can help combat these tactics. 

  • Overtiredness can derail the potty training process in general because a lack of sleep can make it hard for a child to integrate learning a new skill. If this is the case, or you think potty training is adding too much anxiety and stress to your toddler, consider taking a break for 3 - 4 weeks then come back to it.  

  • Try to be patient and understanding when it comes to potty training! It’s normal to have forward and backward progress along the way when it comes to resistance towards using the toilet, accidents, and even sleep issues.

Potty training and toddler sleep FAQ

Q: How does potty training impact a toddler's sleep routine?


Potty training can cause temporary disruptions in sleep, just like any other major developmental milestone. This should not last more than a couple of weeks, however. Sleep can also be impacted as your child begins to recognize the sensations of needing to go to the bathroom as well as new discomfort around being wet or soiled. This may cause them to wake overnight, during naps, or early in the morning. And, of course, toddlers can use the potty as a bedtime stall tactic!

Q: When should parents start incorporating potty training into the bedtime routine?


Incorporate a trip to the bathroom into your child’s bedtime routine from the start of potty training. This can help avoid toddler bedtime stall tactics and set them up for success when it comes time for potty training during naps and overnight.

Q: How can parents handle sleep regression during potty training?


If your child’s sleep seems to be regressing during the potty training process, try to keep sleep schedules consistent and reinforce independent sleep skills to help them get back on track. Note that it’s usually best to address sleep issues before attempting to potty train as overtiredness can make it hard for toddlers to integrate learning a new skill. Keep in mind that if you think your child is experiencing undue stress, anxiety, or sleep issues around potty training, it may be helpful to take a break for a few weeks and then come back to it. There’s nothing wrong with doing this and may ultimately result in your child being more successful at using the toilet.

Q: Is it possible to avoid nighttime accidents during potty training?


Mastering daytime potty training usually comes before potty training for sleep, both during naps and overnight. Often children aren’t able to connect their bladder and brain to stay dry during sleep until they’re a little older and have been using the toilet during the day for around 6 - 12 months. Even once your child is older and has been potty trained at night, accidents can be common [5].

Q: How do I manage daytime naps during potty training?


Most families continue to use diapers or pull-ups for naps during potty training. After successful potty training, if your child wakes up from their nap with bone-dry diapers for 2+ weeks straight, this may signal they’re ready to remove diapers or pull-ups for naps. Children can usually stay dry for short naps sooner than they can stay dry overnight.

Q: What if my toddler resists the bedtime routine due to potty training stress?


It’s common for toddlers to use trips to the bathroom to prolong bedtime. It’s a tried and true stall tactic! However, you know your child best — if they seem overly stressed about potty training and you think that may be why they are resisting bedtime routines and sleep, consider taking a break from potty training. Come back to it after 3 - 4 weeks and hopefully the process will be smoother then.

Note: The content on this site is for informational purposes only and should not replace medical advice from your doctor, pediatrician, or medical professional. If you have questions or concerns, you should contact a medical professional.

8 Sources


  1. Baird DC, Bybel M, Kowalski AW. (2019). Toilet Training: Common Questions and Answers. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/31613577/

  2. Understood for All, Inc. (2024). 4 ways lack of sleep affects how kids learn. https://www.understood.org/en/articles/4-ways-sleep-problems-can-affect-how-kids-learn

  3. Zero to Three. (2024). Creating Routines for Love and Learning. https://www.zerotothree.org/resource/creating-routines-for-love-and-learning/

  4. Urology Care Foundation (2024). What Is Nocturnal Enuresis (Bedwetting)? https://www.urologyhealth.org/urologic-conditions/bed-wetting-(enuresis)

  5. American Academy of Pediatrics (2021). Bedwetting: 3 Common Reasons & What Families Can Do. https://www.healthychildren.org/English/ages-stages/toddler/toilet-training/Pages/Bedwetting.aspx

  6. American Academy of Pediatrics (2009). Stages of Toilet Training: Different Skills, Different Schedules. https://www.healthychildren.org/English/ages-stages/toddler/toilet-training/Pages/Stages-of-Toilet-Training-Different-Skills-Different-Schedules.aspx

  7. Edvoll, M., Kehoe, C. E., Trøan, A. S., Harlem, T. E., & Havighurst, S. S. (2023). The relations between parent and toddler emotion regulation. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S2212657023000089

  8. Zero to Three (2024). Creating Routines for Love and Learning. https://www.zerotothree.org/resource/creating-routines-for-love-and-learning/