Toddler Sleep Myths – Busted!

toddler sleep myths busted

Toddlers. And sleep. Two things that don’t seem—in many parents’ minds and experiences—to go together. 

Any of this sound familiar to you?

  • My toddler wakes up at 1am.
  • My toddler wakes up—and expects me to too—at 5am.
  • My toddler refuses to go to sleep.
  • My toddler takes forever with their bedtime routine.
  • My toddler escapes from their bed after being put to sleep.

And with these experiences, many of us have created certain ‘myths’ or beliefs in our heads, like:

Toddlers just don’t sleep well.

Toddler bedtime is called “the witching hour” for a reason.

Sleep regression is a part of “toddlerhood.”

My toddler is moving from a crib to a bed, so they won’t sleep well during this period.

My toddler is going through a developmental spurt, so they won’t sleep well.

My toddler is teething. They are going to have trouble sleeping.

My toddler is potty training, and I can’t help that after I put them to bed, they always seem to have “to go” again.

My toddler has older siblings, so of course they won’t go to bed before them.

Toddlers experience separation anxiety, so they’re uncomfortable being left alone at night.

You’re not supposed to sleep well when you have small children. That’s part of parenthood.

Now, toddlers are going through a lot—developmentally, behaviorally. They’re newly independent, able to walk and talk and (for some) go to the bathroom on their own. And with this independence, sleep issues can arise. As a result, many of these myths have some truth to them. Toddlers do experience sleeping issues frequently, including sleep regressions. Toddlers can have trouble switching from a crib to a bed. Toddlers are experiencing physical discomforts like teething. 

You get the idea.

But as pediatric sleeping experts tell us, this ^^ doesn’t have to be your reality—or your permanent reality. 

And so today, we bring you some tips from those experts to help your toddler sleep well. 

debunking toddler sleep myths


First, here are some pointers from Dr. Aubrie DeBear, a pediatric sleep consultant, doctor of psychology, and mom of three (check her out @babysleepdr):

  • Make sure your toddler is around significant daylight during the day.
  • And make sure they’re not getting too much daytime sleep. This can lead to sleep issues at night when your little one is awake for hours. Figure out how many naps your toddler needs during the day and stick with that; don’t let them nap more than that. If your toddler is transitioning out of daytime naps, ensure they still get a quiet hour of restfulness during the day to recharge.
  • Encourage play during the late afternoon and early evening. This helps them get their energy out and build up an interest/need for sleep before it’s time to wind down for the night. This will make them more likely to sleep longer at nighttime.
  • Don’t let them overtire themselves during the day. Children who go to sleep exhausted can have a harder time falling asleep and tend to wake more in the night.
  • Create a consistent bedtime routine. Toddlers thrive on boundaries and consistency which make them feel safe. Studies show that a bedtime routine helps toddlers wind down before sleeping, fall asleep faster, and stay asleep longer. What does a good routine look like? Try: bath time + reading + some comforting words or a few songs + dim the lights. 
  • When working on that bedtime routine, offer choices within set boundaries. Toddlers love to be independent, but again, they appreciate and need firm ground rules and clear expectations. So, when it comes to bedtime, you could say: "Do you want to wear the green PJ's or the blue PJ's?" The idea is to offer them a choice that fits within what you already want them to accomplish.
  • If your little one is taking forever to get through their bedtime routine, make things fun to speed up the stalling. Try making it a race. By turning the process of bedtime into something fun and by working together, your toddler is more likely to be amenable. You can also use humor and silliness to turn around a situation. For example: if your child is crying because they don't want to brush their teeth, try chasing the cheetah (or whatever animal) that's running around inside their mouth with the toothbrush. You get the idea!
  • helping toddlers get to sleep

    Here are a few more tips to get your toddler on a good sleeping routine:

      • Make sure your child is totally comfortable in bed—and then leave and don’t return. Returning will only wake them up more and what you want to do instead is to teach them to self-soothe. So, as you get them ready for bed, check to make sure they don’t have to go to the bathroom, that their room is the right temperature, that the lighting is correct, that they have everything they need, that they aren’t sick or teething (if so, address this), etc. Then there’s no need to return if—15 minutes later—they call for you to come back.
      • Or if this is too hard, when your toddler is crying at night or calling out for you to return to their bedroom, set a schedule—or limit—of visits to their room rather than responding to every request. 
      • Do you have an escapee? If your toddler gets out of bed after you put them to bed, calmly but firmly escort them back to their room/bed. They’ll learn it’s not playtime.
      • Offer your little one brief assurances and leave the room while they’re drowsy, letting them fall asleep alone. 

    developing a toddler sleep routine

      • Limit screen time before bed (and ideally throughout the day).
      • If your toddler is still taking naps, make sure they’re in the early afternoon instead of later in the day. You don’t want other sleep to encroach on “nighttime bedtime.”
      • Have a neutral response or consistent saying—like “Mommy loves you. It’s time for bed.” And use it. Be non-negotiable.  
      • Let them take a (safe) toy with them to bed—their favorite stuffed animal, for instance. This can comfort them and help them fall asleep and stay asleep.
      • Avoid scary books, stories, etc. before bedtime to reduce the likelihood of night terrors and nightmares. Make their bedtime routine as happy and lighthearted as possible.
      • If your toddler keeps waking up early in the morning (like, WAY too early), explain to them that it’s not time to get up yet and that they can play quietly on their own in their room/bed if they can’t sleep. But to avoid this: make sure their room is dark and quiet through the early morning hours. Avoid giving them food right after they wake so they don't associate getting up with eating. Also consider if they’re getting enough sleep (maybe they’re waking early because they went to bed too early and they’re just ready to wake up). If so, move their bedtime a little later. 
      • Rule out any medical issues that might be making your toddler struggle to sleep well—conditions like asthma, sleep apnea, and acid reflux.
      • Lastly, be patient. It can take weeks (or sometimes months) to modify your toddler’s sleep time behavior. But remember that consistency is key.
    toddler food for healthy sleep


    We at Amara care about topics like toddlers and sleep because we care about babies’ health. That’s why we’re in the business of nutrient-dense baby and toddler food. Amara’s baby blends and toddler snacks have no additives, are 100% non-GMO and organic, and are made from only a few—very real, very transparent—ingredients. Only the best for our babies. 

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