While there are no official guidelines on how long a 2-year-old should nap, most toddlers at this age can nap for around one and a half to three hours per day. Children of this age get the majority of their sleep at night.
Parents and caregivers hear lots of advice about toddler naps and sleep, and it is important to remember that every child is different. Nevertheless, it is normal to wonder if a toddler’s napping habits are age-appropriate, given that adequate sleep is important for a young child’s behavior, development, and health.
How Much Sleep Does a 2-Year-Old Need?
According to experts, 2-year-olds need between 11 and 14 hours of sleep , including naps. However, some children fall on the higher end of the sleep spectrum and may need up to 15 hours of sleep in a 24-hour period.
Researchers who study sleep in children have found that the typical 2-year-old takes an afternoon nap that lasts from one and a half to about three hours. Younger toddlers usually take two naps, but starting at about 18 to 24 months, most children have dropped to one nap per day .
“Children in daycare are often only offered an opportunity to nap for an hour or two. Many parents will replicate that on weekends, thus creating a shortened napping routine. If parents find that their child is sleepy on weekends, offering a nap that is an hour and a half up to three hours is okay.”
Dr. Nilong Vyas, Pediatrian
In general, children’s naps become shorter as they grow and develop. Eventually, they can get all the sleep they need at night. About one-half of children stop napping by age 3, and nearly all give up daytime naps by age 5 or 6 . The amount of sleep a child needs also decreases as they grow, and experts recommend that 3- to 5-year-olds get 10 to 13 hours of sleep each day, including any naps. But experts recommend allowing a child to sleep if they require it.
A 2-year-old’s nap should be taken early in the afternoon so it does not interfere with nighttime sleep. Try a nap wake-up time that is at least three to four and a half hours before the child’s evening bedtime.
Why Won’t Your 2-Year-Old Nap?
There are many reasons why a 2-year-old may resist taking a nap.
- Toddler independence: Most 2-year-olds are discovering that they are separate from their parents and caregivers. This sense of independence leads to testing limits in many areas, including nap time.
- Unfamiliar environments: A toddler who is used to napping in their quiet bedroom at home may have trouble settling down in a louder, busier childcare setting.
- Body clock mismatch: A child’s circadian rhythm may not align with a scheduled nap time, making them alert and active when they are expected to nap.
- Inconsistent schedule: Children love routines and will do better when nap time is at the same time every day.
- Too much screen time: Like older children and adults, too much television or screen time can interfere with sleep.
Research shows that napping plays a role in brain development for young children, helping with memory, learning and thinking, and the ability to use and understand language. Napping may also help children learn new motor skills , which help them coordinate muscle movements.
Dropping naps before a child is ready can impact their development, including how they regulate emotions and handle difficult or challenging tasks. They may also have trouble falling asleep and staying asleep at night if they give up naps too soon.
Is There a 2-Year-Old Sleep Regression?
Sleep regressions can happen at any age. A sleep regression is a setback in a child’s sleep patterns that may happen around certain stages of development. If a 2-year-old starts to wake up in the middle of the night, too early in the morning, or their regular sleep is disturbed in another way, they may be experiencing a sleep regression.
- Separation anxiety
- Child has not learned to get back to sleep on their own
- Developmental milestones
- Too much stimulation before bedtime
- Changes in the family schedule
- Nightmares or dreams
What Is an Example of a Sleep Schedule for a 2-Year-Old?
Every child is different, but a sample sleep schedule can give parents and caregivers an idea of how to create structure in a child’s sleep schedule, which helps toddlers anticipate naptime.
|Example Sleep Schedule for a 2-Year-Old|
|Wake||6:00 a.m. to 7:00 a.m.|
|Nap after lunch||12:30 p.m. to 1:00 p.m.|
|Wake from nap||1:30 p.m. to 3:00 p.m.|
|Start bedtime routine||6:15 p.m. to 7:15 p.m.|
|Bedtime||7:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m.|
How to Help a 2-Year-Old Nap
Caregivers and parents can help a 2-year-old nap by keeping a consistent schedule and taking steps to promote good sleep hygiene.
- Stay active: Ensure toddlers move a lot during the day and get outside for some natural light when possible.
- Stay on schedule: Stick to a regular naptime, bedtime, and morning wake-up time every day of the week.
- Follow routines: Establish a calming routine to relax before nap time, like reading a book or singing softly. Make sure all care providers know the child’s nap routine and schedule.
- Set the stage: Keep the toddler’s crib or bed clear of too many toys so they learn that it is a place for sleep. It may be comforting for children to take a favorite toy or blanket to bed.
- Watch for signs: When toddlers are tired, they may be cranky, overly active, or throw temper tantrums, in addition to more obvious signs like yawning and rubbing their eyes.
- Care for the caregiver: Children’s sleep habits are challenging and constantly changing . When you get enough sleep and practice self-care, it is easier to handle the ups and downs of parenting a toddler.
It’s helpful for parents and caregivers to keep in mind that refusing to sleep during the day does not necessarily mean a child is ready to stop napping altogether. Many 2-year-olds will continue to nap as long as they need the extra sleep and nap time is part of the daily schedule.
Even when a toddler appears to be outgrowing their nap, this is something that usually happens over time. During this transition, some children will nap when given the opportunity.
“Be prepared, especially during the transition from two to one naps. A child may go days with only needing one nap and other days needing two. Continue to follow their cues to know which day the child will need which schedule. If the toddler is in childcare and taking a shorter nap, offering an extended nap time on weekends is appropriate.”
Dr. Nilong Vyas, Pediatrician
When it is clear that a child has given up napping, parents and caregivers should not force a nap, as doing so can cause poor sleep at night.