When to Wake a Sleeping Toddler

Posted on Jul 18, 2015 |


I recently offered my suggestions for when to wake a sleeping baby, but the toddler years are a bit different.

While it’s beyond rewarding to watch our little ones grow and develop their personalities, toddlers are no walk in the park. Boundless energy, unbridled emotions and constantly testing our patience – all in a day’s work. It’s little wonder that naptime is so sacred. So why would we even consider waking a sleeping toddler? After all, don’t they need the extra sleep?

At around 3-4 months of age, a well-rested baby will often take 3-4 naps per day, generally lasting 45 minutes to 1½ hours. As our little ones grow, and their brains and bodies continue to develop, those shorter naps begin to consolidate into longer naps that occur less frequently throughout the day. By around 18 months, most children will begin taking one long nap in the early afternoon, often waking after 2½ -3 hours.

When thinking about toddler naps, there are a couple of tips to keep in mind:

  • Naptime should begin right after lunch – at 12:30 – although preschool dismissals may require pushing it a bit later.
  • Naps should last no more than 3 hours.
  • Parents should allow 3-4 hours between the time their toddler wakes from a nap and the time they fall asleep for the night.

So at some point, parents who are focused on teaching healthy sleep habits will likely find themselves needing to wake their sleeping toddler. Unfortunately, we sometimes pay a price for our well-meaning deed. Cranky, grumpy and whiny ring a bell? Isn’t that exactly what we were trying to avoid?

Try making noise to bring them out of their slumber. Sometimes closing a bedroom door, vacuuming or tidying up their room will help stir them out of a lighter sleep cycle and help them wake more naturally. I think most would agree it’s better to be awakened by a noise than being physically jostled awake.

You can also try offering a healthy snack and drink shortly after waking. Sometimes a little pick-me-up is all our kids need to get back into the swing of things.

So, while it seems a bit counter-intuitive, you’ll actually be doing your child a favor by putting a healthy limit on daytime sleep with an eye toward continuing to promote positive nighttime sleep habits.