How to Find the Right Bedtime for Your Toddler
Sometimes when we are trying to understand why a child is fighting bedtime, we tend to overlook the obvious: we picked the wrong time! But with flexibility being the name of the game when parenting a toddler, you may wonder if they should have a ‘set’ bedtime at all.
Should toddlers have a bedtime?
Toddlers (ages 1 to 5) sleep about 12 to 14 hours a day (including naps), but without a solid sleep plan, half of them will awaken in the middle of the night. That is why having a toddler bedtime not only reduces tuck-in troubles, it can also help the whole family catch more ZZZ’s. Not to mention, routines are incredibly comforting to toddlers. So pick a bedtime that works for your toddler, and try to stick to it!
What time should a toddler go to bed?
For most toddlers, lights-out is around 9pm (give or take thirty minutes), but pushing it later or trying to force it earlier may lead to more middle-of-the-night awakening! I have found the sweet spot tends to be around 8–8:30pm, but every child is different.
Is your toddler bedtime too early?
For most toddlers, it is too much to ask for them to snooze straight through from 7pm till 7am It is just more sleep than they need. Signs that your bedtime may be too early include:
- Your toddler fights falling asleep for 30-60 minutes.
- She shows no sign of fatigue at bedtime.
- She awakens in the middle of the night or very early the next day, refreshed and ready to go.
Is your toddler bedtime too late?
Overtired children often get more hyper. Rather than winding down, they get wound up! This leads to bedtime resistance, and the memory of these struggles can reverberate throughout the nighttime and actually awaken your toddler when she enters one of her light stages of sleep in the middle of the night. Here are some clues that your toddler’s bedtime is too late:
- Your child fights falling asleep for 30-60 minutes.
- She has trouble awakening in the morning; she is extra cranky and moody during the day; and she falls asleep during car or pram rides.
- She shows clear signs of fatigue at bedtime (rubbing her eyes, blinking, yawning, getting silly and wild, acting cranky, having accidents).
How to find out the right bedtime for your toddler:
If you think bedtime is too early, try pushing the bedtime routine 15 minutes later, 2-3 nights. If you think bedtime is too late, start the routine 15 minutes earlier every 2-3 nights. Either approach should work within a week or two.
Is there a sleep regression at 3 years old?
There are a number of things that disturb a toddler’s sleep. Toddlers love running, dancing, and exploring—and they can be pretty rigid in their reactions to your requests—all of which can add up to rebellion at bedtime! This is why establishing a routine is highly important. Another contributing factor is sleep disturbances like nightmares, confusional arousals, and night terrors.
Helpful tips beyond toddler bedtimes...
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Disclaimer: The information on our site is NOT medical advice for any specific person or condition. It is only meant as general information. If you have any medical questions and concerns about your child or yourself, please contact your health provider. Breastmilk is the best source of nutrition for babies. It is important that, in preparation for and during breastfeeding, mothers eat a healthy, balanced diet. Combined breast- and bottle-feeding in the first weeks of life may reduce the supply of a mother's breastmilk and reversing the decision not to breastfeed is difficult. If you do decide to use infant formula, you should follow instructions carefully.