From nodding off peacefully to waking with a start in the middle of the night, getting toddlers back to sleep can be a big challenge. Whether it is wet undies, a nerve-wracking nightmare, or something entirely different, it is often up to parents to help solve the case by looking for clues. Or simply finding things to help toddlers sleep and stay in that peaceful slumber until morning. To help you discover what works for your family, we have compiled some of the best techniques for how to get toddlers to sleep in the middle of the night. So, grab a cozy pillow or blanket and let’s drift off into all things sleep. 

Sleep Health

Let’s start with the basics… As kids age, their sleep schedules change. Toddlers need less sleep at night than babies, or around 11-14 hours of sleep per day, including naps. As your little one gets older they have to adapt to their longer toddler sleep cycle, transitioning from 30-45 minutes to around 60 minutes. In addition, toddlers can have a more challenging time connecting their sleep cycles the way adults do, causing them to wake up between cycles and struggle to fall back asleep. To help them improve their sleep, create daily routines that encourage sleepiness at night. That might mean shortening their naps and almost definitely means promoting a more active day that tires them out. However, it is important to note that a toddler that is too tired can become fussy and can make relaxing for bedtime much more difficult. 

Snoozing Sounds

Does your toddler need your help at night? It might seem obvious but sometimes it can be difficult to distinguish between sleep-sounds and other noises like crying or calling for help. With their new language skills, or rustling around in bed from their dreams, parents might think their child is awake or needs their help to get back to sleep. It is important to learn about your child’s sleep habits to help you decide whether your child could use your help or needs to do it on their own. For example, are they calling out to you or are they simply talking in their sleep? If you aren’t sure, quietly check on your child to see if their eyes are open and if they are talking directly to you before jumping in to assist them in getting back to sleep. 

Soothing for Slumber

Once you have decided how much to help, it is time to get both of you back to sleep! That means helping soothe your toddler or checking in quickly before saying goodnight and letting them tackle drifting off on their own. This can become difficult when things like separation anxiety, bed wetting, night terrors, or elaborate bedtime routines come into play. So, try to figure out what your child is experiencing before deciding how to proceed. If they truly need something, like cleaning up a wet bed or comforting after a scary dream, be sure to quickly assist and soothe them. But sometimes they demand something like juice or a snack when they simply aren’t sure what they really need. 

Restful Routines

Evaluate your nightly routine with your little one. Design a system that is short and sweet, like reading a bedtime story or singing a song. Having a set end point, like the length of a song or book can help set expectations with your child about how long you will stay to soothe them. A seemingly never ending routine, like a massage, can make it difficult to let your little one embrace falling asleep on their own. Instead of creating a more elaborate routine, consider a few quick fixes to help your child relax and encourage them to start snoozing. Here are a few ideas for how to get toddlers to sleep on their own…

Encouraging Sleepiness

If your child enjoys reading a book with you at bedtime, consider easing them back into sleep with a recorded bedtime story or a noise machine with soothing nature sounds like rain or crashing waves. Also, try to have a few typical, go-to things to help toddlers sleep on hand. A favorite comforting toy or plushie can help with self-soothing or separation anxiety. You should also consider your child’s comfort. Is the temperature too hot or cold? Did they drink or eat too much before bedtime or too little throughout the day? Is it too loud outside? Find fixes like calming sounds or a change of clothes to help them feel more comfortable and relaxed for sleep. 


Especially as they get older, toddlers need to learn to sleep on their own without help or an extensive routine involving parents. So try shortening the routine and avoid staying in the room until they’re asleep. Gradually start leaving earlier to let them take themselves through the process of falling asleep on their own. This can help them learn how to soothe themselves if they wake up in the middle of the night. To encourage independence, consider helping your child learn ways to relax on their own. Perhaps learning a simple guided meditation (not unlike counting sheep) to share with your child could help them learn to practice self-soothing techniques on their own. 

At Coastal Kids Pediatrics, our mission is to support parents and caregivers through the challenges of bringing their little loved ones up to be happy, healthy individuals. Proper sleep patterns, including uninterrupted toddler sleep cycles, are crucial to your child’s health and wellness. For more tips on how to help toddlers sleep through the night, don’t hesitate to reach out to your passionate Coastal Kids pediatrician for expert advice. To make an appointment visit us at