Tips for Finding Your Child’s Ideal Bedtime

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Learn how to find your child’s perfect bedtime. Included in this post is a range for the ideal bedtime by age from baby to toddler to teenager.

sleeping baby

Having a consistent bedtime is one of the most crucial steps to getting your baby sleeping through the night and on a solid sleep schedule for naps. 

Read all about the Importance of a Consistent Bedtime here.

As you set your bedtime, you will probably wonder what time is the best time for your child to have bedtime. 

Defining “Consistent” 

To have a consistent bedtime, you want your bedtime to be at the same time each night within a 30 minute window. So if bedtime is 7:30, your 30 minute window could be 7:00-7:30, 7-15-7:45, 7:25-7:55, etc. Pick one 30 minute window you will operate in.

Read more at How To Decide What Time Should Be Bedtime

Pinnable image with text and a picture of a sleeping baby

How To Be Consistent With Bedtime

Bedtime happens at the end of the day. You are probably wondering how on earth you can be consistent with bedtime when it is the last event of the day. Bedtime can naturally vary quite a lot if your daily schedule is not the same from day to day.

This brings up the importance of a consistent start time to each day. You need to start your schedule at the same time each morning if you want to increase your chances of ending at the same time each day. 

So start this process with a consistent morning wake up time. You want it to be within a 30 minute window just like bedtime. 

The second step is to work to be consistent in your days. I have a post to help you accomplish this in Getting a Consistent Schedule

As you go through your day, if your child wakes early from one nap, let your baby sleep longer for another nap to get back on track. If you get a little behind schedule, move something up in the day to get back on schedule. You have an entire day to work toward getting back on track for that consistent bedtime.

Read My Books for More Help

Overcoming the Mental Load of MotherhoodChronicles of a Babywise Mom Book of LogsThe Babywise Mom Nap Guide

Do Not Fear Disruptions

With all of this talk about consistency, I don’t want to send you into a panic every time there is a disruption or change in your daily routine. You want most days to be consistent, but it is okay to have some off days. It is okay to have an early bedtime for whatever reason every once in a while. It is okay if you put your little one down for bedtime late one day because you were out and about. 

It is okay to have disruptions to your typical schedule.


Read: Strategies for Making Bedtime Smoother


Ideal Bedtimes by Age

As much as schedules change over the years, it is interesting to me that one thing that changes very little is bedtime. Here are some ideal bedtimes by age.

Newborn Bedtime

Newborns sleep more than any other age range (yes, even teenagers! haha). Your newborn should have bedtime 12 hours before your ideal morning wakeup time. So if you want to start your day at 7 AM, bedtime needs to be at 7 PM.

Some sleepier newborns might even have bedtime a little more than 12 hours before bedtime. 

Newborns eat a lot and will eat at least two times between bedtime and morning wakeup time, but still treat that 12 time before your start of day as bedtime. Establish your bedtime routine. Set it apart from the rest of the day. 

Ideal bedtime hour: 7:00-8:00 PM


Read: Sleep Routine Ideas to Get Your Baby Sleeping Well


Baby Bedtime

Bedtime for your baby ages 4-12 months old should be 10-12 hours before your morning wakeup time. Until your little one is sleeping through the night, stick with aiming for 12 hours. If that doesn’t work, slowly shift it until you find the ideal bedtime. As your baby gets older, you will find the ideal bedtime for your little one. 

Some babies might even sleep 12.5-13 hours at night.

Bedtime can often shift as naps are dropped. This might be a permanent shift or a shift that is temporary until your little one can either handle less daytime sleep or can shift sleep to naps. 

So if bedtime is 7:30 when baby has four naps, you might need to move bedtime to 7:00 when baby moves to three naps a day. After baby has adjusted, you might be able to move back to a 7:30 bedtime.

As naps are dropped, I always caution parents to think of a nap as rearranging total sleep time in a 24 hour period rather than dropping sleep time. Sometimes that might be as simple as baby doesn’t wake up for a night feed anymore so 30 minutes of sleep is added in during night sleep and can be shifted from a nap. 

Ideal bedtime hour: 7:00-8:00 PM. I always like to aim for bedtime being in the 7 PM hour. You might have reasons to have a later bedtime and that is perfectly fine as long as your baby can handle it.

Pretoddler Bedtime

A pretoddler is in the age range of 12-18 months old. Pretoddlers will start out with two naps a day. Most will drop to one nap a day sometime between 14-18 months old. 

We are still aiming for a bedtime 10-12 hours before your start time of day. You might need to shift bedtime back a little later if your little one is almost ready for one nap a day but not quite there yet.

Ideal bedtime hour: 7:00-8:00 PM (do you see a pattern here?)

Toddler Bedtime

Toddlers are 18 months through 2 years old. Toddlers will be solidly at one nap a day. Still focus on bedtime being 10-12 hours before your morning wake up time.

Two year olds often have a 2 year old sleep regression where they play and play before bedtime after being put to bed. I would recommend you focus on bedtime being close to 12 hours before morning wake up time so you can have wiggle room for playing and still falling asleep by a decent time. 

Ideal bedtime hour: 7:00-8:00 PM


Read: How To Solve Sleep Problems for Toddlers and Preschoolers


Preschooler Bedtime

Preschoolers are 3 and 4 year olds. Preschooler bedtime shouldn’t shift much. When your preschooler has days she skips her daytime nap (which is normal), you might need to move bedtime up by 30 minutes that day.

Ideal bedtime hour: 7:00-8:00 PM

Child Bedtime

The child age range is 5-8 years old. This will take your child from Kindergarten through 2nd grade. You will hear many, many times over those years from your child’s teacher and school how important an early bedtime is for your child. 

This is when bedtime just might start to shift some. Your child still needs 10-12 hours of sleep at night. 

Ideal bedtime hour: 7:00-8:30 PM


Read: Sleep Needs and Difficulties for 7-12 Year Olds


Preteen Bedtime

Preteen, or Tween, is ages 9-12 years old. Your child needs at least 9 hours of sleep at night at this age. I aim for 10-11 typically in this age range. Preteens often like some wind down time once in bed, so it is wise to have something like an 8 PM bedtime with a lights out time of 8:30 if your child is getting up at 7:00 AM. 

If your tween is responsible, let your tween decide lights out time. I would start this more around at 10 or 11. Help your child recognize how he/she feels after a certain number of hours of sleep. Feeling sleepy with 9 hours? Let’s aim for 9.5 hours tonight. Feeling groggy with 10.5 hours? How about we try out 10 hours. 

Help your child respect and recognize the benefits of healthy sleep. You have worked his whole life on establishing healthy sleep habits. Do not send your child out into adulthood never having practiced ownership over his own sleep. Help her recognize the benefits of choosing healthy sleep while you still have influence over her. 

Ideal bedtime hour: 7:30-9:00 PM

Teen Bedtime

Teenagers are 13-18 years old (for the purpose of this…I am assuming your child will move out at 18 years old). Teenagers need 8-10 hours of sleep. Start at when your teenager needs to get up in the morning and work backward. For example, Brayden wakes up at 6 AM. That means to get 8-10 hours of sleep, bedtime needs to happen between 8-10 PM. 

Just like preteens like some wind down time, so do teens. Take that into consideration when deciding “bedtime.” You will likely have an “in your room” time and then a “lights out” time.  Continue to allow your teen decide bedtime.

As the parent, you can always decide “in your room” time. Be sure you do not allow electronics in the bedroom so you can help your child choose bedtime when your child is tired rather than staying up to watch one more show or scroll snapchat one more time. 

Ideal Bedtime hour: 8:00-9:30 PM

How to find your child's perfect bedtime for optimal nighttime sleep pinnable image

Conclusion

I hope you noticed as you read through that all that bedtime does not shift a whole lot over the years. Do not underestimate the power of a consistent bedtime. Do not underestimate the power of setting a precedence of prioritizing bedtime from a young age. If bedtime is always highly valued, you will get little to no push back from your preteen. 

Healthy sleep habits are worth forming early and sticking to throughout life!

Ideal bedtimes chart

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valplowman
valplowman

Valerie, also known as The Babywise Mom, is the mother to four children. She has been blogging on Babywise and general parenting since 2007. She has a degree in technical writing and loves using those skills to help parents be the best parents they can be! Read her book, The Babywise Mom Nap Guide, to get help on sleep from birth through the preschool years. You can also find her writing at Babywise.life, Today Parenting, and Her View From Home. Read more about Valerie and her family on the About page. Follow her on FacebookPinterest, and Instagram for more tips and helps.

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