Toddler Takes Forever To Fall Asleep? 14 Tricks You Need!

Author Image By Paula McLaren BA (Hons) Early Years Development & Learning •  Updated: 03/16/23 •  Toddler » Toddler Sleep

It’s 8pm… Your little one’s bedtime has been and gone. Yet the yawning, eye rubbing, and fussing remains. So how come your toddler takes forever to fall asleep?

How Long Should It Take For A Toddler To Fall Asleep?

Reasons Why Your Toddler Takes Forever To Fall Asleep

If your toddler takes forever fall asleep regularly and it’s beginning to affect your toddler and family’s happiness, these are some of the common culprits that may need to be addressed:

9 Reasons Why A Toddler Takes Forever To Fall Asleep
  1. Your toddler is overtired. Bizarrely, on overtired toddler takes forever to fall asleep. This is because an overtired toddler’s body produces excess cortisol and adrenaline in order for them to keep going… making it difficult for them to relax at bedtime.
  2. They’re overstimulated. An overstimulated child in the run-up to bedtime will most definitely struggle to fall asleep as their brain struggles to settle.
  3. There is a lack of a bedtime routine. A healthy, consistent bedtime routine is the cornerstone to establishing strong sleep associations to help your toddler fall asleep faster.
  4. Your toddler’s napping routine is not balanced. Getting daytime naps correct will go a long way in helping your toddler be primed for sleep at the end of the day.
  5. Their body clock is out of sync. Many toddlers have circadian rhythms that get out of sync and need resetting by getting outside, waking up on time, and turning off screens.
  6. Your toddler is experiencing anxiety or bedtime fears. It is very natural for toddlers to suffer from separation anxiety and become fearful of the dark which can stop them from wanting to fall asleep alone.
  7. They’re curious! Toddlers don’t like to be left out! So, saying goodnight and leaving them alone can be very difficult for them to understand.
  8. Your toddler’s room is not conducive to sleep. Is it too hot or too cold? Too light? Too loud? Creating a peaceful bedroom will go a long way to helping your toddler fall asleep faster.
  9. They may be suffering from a sleep regression. At around 18 months your toddler may start to experience a sleep regression. This can be triggered by all sorts of things such as teething or the arrival of a new sibling and this will certainly make falling asleep much harder for your little one.

How Much Sleep Does A Toddler Need?

If your toddler takes forever to fall asleep, check the following guidelines to see if they’re having too much or not enough sleep:

1 to 2 Year Old Sleep Recommendations

Children between the ages of 1 and 2 years old need about 11-14 hours of sleep in a 24 hour period.

That includes naps and you should aim for their bedtime to be between 6.30 and 7.30pm.

3 Year Old Sleep Recommendations

By the time your toddler is 3, they will probably need 10-13 hours of sleep in a 24 hour period although, most children will have dropped their daytime naps by this stage. 

Bedtime for this age group can fall anywhere between 6pm and 8pm depending on what the family evening routine is and how much sleep (if any) your toddler has had during the day.

Looking to get your little one to sleep quickly and effortlessly? Check out my Bedtime and Nap Cheat Sheet and master the art of making daytime naps and bedtimes as seamless as possible.

What Should You Do When Your Toddler Takes Forever To Fall Asleep?

Sleep issues are always difficult, especially as your baby grows into a toddler and becomes more independent.

And whether you’re a new parent or an experienced one, learning how to navigate these sleep troubles will always test you…

The good news is that if your toddler takes forever to fall asleep at night there are definitely things that you can do to get back on track (and quickly too!)

So, if you think your toddler takes forever to fall asleep because of any of the reasons I mentioned above, here are the important things that you can do to fix the problem:

Toddler Takes Forever To Fall Asleep - How To Help Toddler Fall Asleep Faster

1. Adjust Daytime Naps To Prevent Overtiredness

Between the ages of 1 and 3, your toddler’s daytime nap needs will change and you will need to make sure that they are not getting too little or too much nap time. 

Too few daytime naps will result in your toddler becoming overtired… And too many will mean that they are not ready for bed at an appropriate time.

The good news is that there are a few general rules to follow to get the balance right… 

2. Ensure You Have A Stable And Regular Bedtime Routine

I am always going on about a consistent and calm bedtime routine as it goes a long way in getting your little one ready for sleep. 

If your toddler takes forever to fall asleep, then the earlier you start with a bedtime routine the better. 

As they grow, your toddler will take their sleep cues from the regular nighttime routine of bath, book and bed. However, using a bedtime routine chart will certainly help to establish a consistent bedtime routine and encourage your little one to go to sleep.

Free Printable Bedtime Routine Chart For Kids - toddler takes forever to fall asleep

3. Gradually Adjust Bedtime To Reset Their Body Clock

Also known as the circadian rhythm, sometimes your toddler’s body clock gets out of sync and needs to be reset. In order to fix this, use a morning light to help wake your toddler earlier, avoid screens before bedtime as this will disrupt your child’s melatonin production and keep bedtimes consistent and calm… even at weekends.

4. Avoid Overstimulation And Limit Screen Time Before Bed

Check the lead-up to bedtime and ask yourself these questions:

If so, these could all be reasons why your toddler takes forever to fall asleep once put to bed or is staying awake until late.

To help your toddler fall asleep faster, try to reduce screen time before bed, keep consistent routines and maintain calm energy throughout the house in the evenings.

5. Help Your Toddler Process Their Anxiety And Fears

It is not uncommon for toddlers to become anxious about being left alone or fearful of the dark and this can be one of the reasons why your toddler takes forever to fall asleep.

You will need to be very patient if this is the case and you will come up with some strategies that make them feel safe. 

Children of this age often feel more settled with a favourite toy to sleep with, a nightlight and a spray bottle full of ‘monster repellent’ (just tap water!).

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6. Make Sure Their Bedroom Is At The Right Temperature And Brightness

Even as adults, we all have preferences on how hot or cold our bedrooms should be. So, if your toddler takes forever to fall asleep then check that they are comfortable. 

They might be too hot or cold or the room may be too light...

Test a few different settings and see if this fixes the issue of your toddler taking forever to fall asleep.

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7. Check Your Toddler’s Food For Hidden Stimulants

Yes. You heard that right. Some foods and drinks contain ingredients that overstimulate your toddler and get them hyper just when you want them to start calming down.

These include caffeine, sugar and refined salt. So, be sure to check food labels for these ingredients and aim to cook evening meals from scratch whenever you can.

8. Use A Night Light And White Noise Machine

A nightlight and white noise machine can also go a long way in helping your little one settle to sleep. 

The night light will reduce fears of the dark without being too bright to prevent sleep and a white noise machine can be very soothing and block out distracting noises.

This nightlight by LICKLIP is a firm favourite with toddlers as it projects pretty images on the walls and has a range of colours!

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9. Try Listening To An Audiobook Together

I have always found playing an audiobook a great way to settle a toddler that struggles to fall asleep.

They will probably want you to play the same story over and over again each night… but listening to the comforting and familiar story can help your little one to fall asleep very successfully!

10. Understand Their Natural Curiosity

Toddlers are naturally curious and their brains are like sponges. 

Put simply, your toddler takes forever to fall asleep as they often struggle to switch off at the end of the day and think they are missing out on whatever it is you might be doing once they have gone to bed!

Explain to them that you are now having some grown-up time that they will find really boring and talk about something exciting that they can look forward to the next day that you can do together.

11. Be Adaptable To Changes In Your Family’s Schedule

Sometimes events can flip your little one’s sleep schedule on its head causing them to take forever to fall asleep.

So, if your toddler has dropped their daytime nap you may need to bring it back as they adjust to spending a morning at daycare or when they’re unwell.

You can also bring their bedtime forward if they have been in daycare all day until they get used to the new routine.

12. Help Them Understand That Having A New Sibling Does Not Mean They Can Return To Baby Behaviours

When a new sibling joins the family, a lot of toddlers will witness baby behaviours such as waking up every few hours, crying, getting extra attention and fussing which can cause them to copy these behaviours to get more attention too… 

These are perfectly normal behaviours.

However, it’s how we react to these behaviours that will make the difference between months of sleepless nights or just a few days of out-of-character behaviour.

So, be sure to watch this video about helping your toddler adjust to a new sibling to learn more about navigating this phase.

Toddler Takes Forever To Fall Asleep Recap

So if your toddler takes forever to fall asleep and you feel that you have lost control of the bedtime routine…

I want you to know that it’s not a hopeless situation.

The main thing to remember with toddler sleep issues is that you can always do something about it and that it is important to address these issues before they become bad habits.

Remember to stay calm and be loving and supportive towards your toddler. 

Check the areas covered in this post to see which may apply to your little one and then take steps to re-establish a healthy, consistent bedtime routine that limits screen time and reinforces strong sleep associations, backed up by age-appropriate daytime naps.

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Author Image Bio
Paula McLaren - The founder of Teething to Tantrums has been in the childcare industry as a Norland Nanny and Childcare Expert since 1982. Her qualifications include a BA (Hons) in Early Years Development & Learning (0-6 Years) plus the highly prestigious Norland Diploma, recognized as the best early years practitioner qualification in the world. During her 40+ years of experience, she has worked as a night nanny (specializing in solving sleep issues), run a very successful daycare center in London, and raised almost 100 children, including her son, to be kind, healthy, and happy individuals with her tried and tested developmental and guidance methods.

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