Your preschooler needs sleep to help him grow strong and healthy. As most toddlers become preschoolers they will need between 11 and 13 hours’ sleep over a 24 hour period. They may only have a short nap each day or only need naps on occasional days. By the age of 4 your child’s circadian rhythm will be established and they may no longer need to sleep at all during the day, needing around 11-12 hours of sleep a night.
As your child starts preschool or nursery they will spend a lot of time running around with friends, playing and discovering the world in their own way. You may find that some days they are very tired and will need a nap. Try setting aside a specific time each day for their nap. Even if they’re not tired enough to sleep, try using that time as ‘quiet time’ so they can recharge their batteries (and you can recharge yours!).
Just as your child is in a good routine and finally over teething, nappy rash and night waking, preschool age can come with interruptions, such as moving to a cot or bed, potty training and nightmares or night terrors. Night terrors and nightmares can be a problem for your preschooler as their imagination develops. This will peak during the preschool years but don’t worry, if your child does suffer from bad dreams or terrors they should grow out of it by the age of around 5.
Maintaining a good bedtime routine is a good way of making sure that your preschooler gets the sleep they need even with all the other changes going on around them. There are lots of things you can do to help your child establish good sleep habits and these habits will stay with them for life. Keeping stimulation to a minimum at bedtime is important so that you are not feeding their already over-active imagination before bed. A good wind-down routine and consistent timing can also help to ensure that your preschooler gets the sleep they need.
If your child resists bedtime or gets out of bed repeatedly you may like to consider a reward scheme where you reinforce the behaviour you want from them, whilst trying to ignore the behaviour you don’t want. As with any sleep training it shouldn’t take long for your child to realise that resisting bedtime is counter-productive.
As always, every individual is different and experts can only give a guide to how much a child will need to sleep in general. You may have a child who needs more or less than 11 – 13 hours of sleep; they may drop their nap most days by the age of 3, or may still need a nap in the day by the time they’re 5. If your child still naps in the day and is about to start school you might like to try gradually decreasing their daytime nap by 10-15 minutes a day and moving their bedtime forward by the same time until they are getting all the sleep they need over night.