An 18-Month’s Sleep Schedule: What to Know
Updated Jan 17th 2023 | 7 min read
Updated Jan 17th 2023 | 7 min read
Written By Mandy Treeby Chief Baby Sleep Consultant
You’ve come a long way, baby. And so has your baby!
By 18-months, your baby has undergone a complete transformation since their earliest days. And that includes their sleeping. Where once they were a newborn waking and sleeping at odd hours, now they have a steady rhythm. But there are still more changes ahead, including a potential 18-month sleep regression. To help you navigate your baby’s next sleep shift, we gathered expert advice to answer common questions about an 18-month-old’s sleep schedule, including “How long should an 18-month-old sleep?” and “Is it time to move my 18-month-old to a toddler bed?”
IN THIS ARTICLE:
For answers to all your questions about your baby’s sleep, and for step-by-step guidance on how to easily sleep train, download the Smart Sleep Coach by Pampers™. We know from our own experiences how frustrating sleep coaching can be, so we designed an easy-to-use app that helps any parent sleep train any baby any time.
From 1-click sleep tracking to customized sleep coaching methods, the Smart Sleep Coach by Pampers is so effective that most users see results in one week or less!
We’ve included these times just as an example. Your baby’s unique, so instead of focusing exclusively on clock time when determining their sleep schedule, focus on wake windows – the amount of time your baby is awake between naps or their last nap and bedtime. – and sleep cues, like yawning.
Learn more about wake windows and sleepy cues by checking out the Smart Sleep Coach by Pampers™ . This easy-to-use app guides you step-by-step so you can teach your baby how to fall asleep faster and stay asleep longer for optimal development.
Awake: 5 hrs.
Nap: 2 hrs.
Awake: 5.5 hrs.
Yes. An 18-month-old can sleep through the night with proper sleep coaching. Sleep coaching both creates a sleep-nourishing sleep schedule that works with your baby’s circadian rhythm, and it teaches babies how to self-soothe: lull themselves back to sleep if they wake in the night.
Most experts agree that an 18-month-old should get 13-14 hours of total sleep over a 24-hour period. That includes night sleeps and daytime naps.
Aiming for 11 hours of nighttime sleep is an ideal sleep goal for most 18-month-olds.
We recommend 2-3 hours of daytime sleep in one nap.
Naps are extremely important to a baby or toddler’s development. In addition to providing extra rest for their bodies and minds to grow, naps provide babies with NREM sleep.
There are two types of sleep: REM sleep and NREM sleep. While REM sleep helps with learning and cognition, NREM sleep aids with memory consolidation. Since NREM sleep occurs earlier in your baby’s sleep cycle, naps provide additional NREM that helps your baby absorb and internalize all they learn during the day.
For more on the science behind your baby’s sleep, check out the Smart Sleep Coach by Pampers™. It includes mini articles explaining everything from sleep cycles to nap transitioning to how to sleep train at daycare.
While every baby is different, most 18-month-olds are awake 5-5.5 hours between naps and bedtime. Isn’t it incredible how far your little one has come from when they were a newborn?
Yes, there’s typically a regression around 18-months. As frustrating as this may be, remember that sleep regressions coincide with developmental milestones and should be celebrated!
Potential causes for the 18-month regression include:
Teething: Your baby’s primary teeth are still coming in – teething begins between 6-12 months and goes until your baby is about 3 – and the resulting discomfort can disrupt your baby’s sleep. Luckily, there are ways to help a teething baby sleep.
Wipe away drool: Teething babies often drool more than usual. Prevent drool rash, and ease sleep disruptions, by wiping your baby’s drool with a soft cloth.
Cold fruit or washcloth: Letting your baby chew on cold fruit or a cold washcloth can ease teething discomfort.
Teething Rings: Baby-safe teething rings allow your baby to “target” the painful areas themselves. Plus, they don’t melt or create a mess like frozen fruit.
Gum Massage: Gently massaging your baby’s gums can alleviate teething pain and help your baby sleep.
Consistent Bedtime Routines: While a bedtime routine itself won’t alleviate teething pain, it will help cue your baby it’s time to sleep and help create a deeper sleep that overrides conscious discomfort.
Separation anxiety is another potential cause for the 18-month sleep regression. While most babies have their first bout of separation anxiety around 8 months, this 18-month separation anxiety is the second round.
Babies have two distinct rounds of separation anxiety because their concept of object permanence is expanding and growing.
Before, your baby only knew that you were gone. Now, your baby understands both that you’re somewhere else and that you’re doing something else – this can lead to a little Baby FOMO, fear of missing out.
If your baby has separation anxiety, here are some tried-and-true methods for minimizing separation anxiety in babies:
Independent Play: Babies should be given independent playtime starting around 6 months. At that point, your baby may only be able to play alone for 5 minutes before becoming bored or anxious. If you keep at it, though, your baby may be comfortable being alone for longer periods of times. For example, by 12 months, many babies can play alone comfortably for 15 minutes.
Note: Always be close enough to your baby or watch a baby monitor to respond if they need you during independent play.
Peek-a-Boo: Peek-a-Boo may seem like silly fun, but by “disappearing” and “reappearing,” you’re also reinforcing to your baby that you’ll always return to them.
“I’ll Be Right Back:” This easy exercise grows your baby’s “alone endurance.” To play “I’ll Be Right Back” you simply say those magic words to your baby – “I’ll be right back” – and step out of the room for a minute. Then you return and cheer, “I’m back!”
For the next round, extend the time you’re away for another minute, and then another minute on the third round, and so on. By lengthening the time you’re “gone,” you’re lengthening the time your baby is comfortable without you. Also, as with peek-a-boo, you’re reassuring them that you’ll always return to them!
Blankies, stuffed animals, or other beloved toys can sleep in the crib with your 18-month-old and work wonders at helping ease separation anxiety at this age.
Note that 18-month-olds are more independent than ever and may protest both to show their individuality or be silly and get a reaction.
The key to success in those cases is to stay consistent and firm when settling them for bed. In other words, never let your baby stay up “just this once.” Instead, lengthen their bedtime routine to increase their sleep drive.
You can also diminish bedtime protests by involving your baby in their bedtime routine. For example, ask them to select their pajama or their bedtime story. If they refuse and instead insist on staying up, make the selection for them and move on.
For more on sleep regressions, please read our article on why they happen and how to handle them.
Every baby has their own unique sleep schedule and wake windows, but generally experts agree 18-month-old babies should go down at night between 7pm-8pm. Babies and toddlers need such early bedtimes because they naturally wake up early.
Sleep regressions can be minimized by maintaining consistent bedtime routines and sleep schedules, reducing naps if your baby is still taking 2 naps, and by waiting a moment before checking on your baby at night. Often babies will self-soothe themselves back to sleep, especially if they’re sleep trained.
Restlessness before bed can stem from a few things: one, your baby is getting too much sleep during the day; two, separation anxiety; or, three, willful protests. If your 18-month-old is still taking two daily naps, it may be time to complete the 2-to-1 nap transition. If your baby has separation anxiety, use our techniques for reducing separation anxiety. And if your baby is protesting, try extending their bedtime routine to build up their sleep drive.
It depends. If your 18-month-old is still taking 2 naps, then yes, it’s time to complete the 2-to-1 nap transition. This will help your baby fall asleep faster and stay asleep longer. If your baby is taking 1 nap, maintain that schedule until they’re about 3 years old. If your baby is taking 1 nap and struggling to sleep at night, try extending their bedtime routine to increase their sleep drive.
“Toddler Sleep Challenges: All in a Day's Work,” Journal of Developmental and Behavioral
“The Family Context of Toddler Sleep: Routines, Sleep Environment, and Emotional Security Induction in the Hour before Bedtime,” Behavioral Sleep Medicine .
“Poor toddler-age sleep schedules predict school-age behavioral disorders in a longitudinal survey,” Brain Development.
The information in this article is based on the expert advice found in trusted medical and government sources, such as the American Academy of Pediatrics and the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. You can find a full list of sources used for this article below. The content on this page should not replace professional medical advice. Always consult medical professionals for full diagnosis and treatment.