Ideal Bedtimes by Age: When Should Your Child Go to Sleep?
Are you unsure when your kids should go to sleep? Read on to learn about the ideal sleep patterns and bedtimes by age.
Jan 19th, 2021 •
Getting enough sleep is important at any age, but proper sleep during childhood can impact development. Your child’s mood and performance are linked to their sleep. Knowing what to expect can help you work with your children to support their happiness and health.
Sleep Needed and Bedtimes by Age
|Age||Total Hours of Daily Sleep||Bedtime|
|1-4 months||14-15||8:00 PM|
|4-12 months||14-15||6:00-7:30 PM|
|1-3 years||12-14||7:00-9:00 PM|
|3-6 years||10-13||7:00-9:00 PM|
|6-12 years||10-11||7:30-10:00 PM|
|12-18 years||8-9||8:30-10:00 PM|
As children develop, their sleep needs slowly decrease. The above are guidelines based on the average needs. Keep in mind that every child is different. Some may simply need more or less sleep than average.
We’ll go more in-depth on these guidelines on bedtime by age group below.
1 Day to 1 Month
Average Daily Sleep: 14-18 hours (Including naps)
Ideal Bedtime: N/A
Newborn babies do not have a sleep schedule the same way that adults do. This is because they have not yet developed their internal clock known as their circadian rhythm. Because of this, their sleep needs remain the same throughout the day and night.
Rather than sleeping during the night and staying awake during the day, infants sleep in short stints of less than four hours spread out randomly. Some babies will sleep for far less than 4 hours at once, leaving their parents sleepy and dreaming of the future when their child’s sleep schedule is more like their own.
It can be hard to keep track of how much your baby is sleeping. Just remember that the when isn’t important so long as they are sleeping 14 or more hours each day.
1 Month to 4 Months
Average Daily Sleep: 14-15 hours (Including Naps)
Ideal Bedtime: 8:00 P.M.
During this time, your baby will begin to differentiate between night and day. You will notice that more of their sleep occurs when it’s dark out, although they will still need regular naps during the day.
Around 6 weeks of age, babies will begin to sleep in closer to 4-6 hour chunks, allowing parents to get a bit more regular sleep. During this time, you may be able to line your baby’s sleep schedule closer to yours. Try for a bedtime of around 8 P.M. to 11 P.M. Keep in mind that you will probably be woken up for a nighttime feeding.
4 Months to 12 Months
Average Daily Sleep: 14-15 hours (Including Naps)
Ideal Bedtime: 6:00 – 7:30 P.M.
Many infants around this age will get less than the amount of sleep that they need. If parents do not prioritize naps and a nighttime sleep schedule, a baby may end up getting only 11 or 12 hours of sleep each day.
Do what you can to help ensure that your baby gets enough sleep by putting them down for three daily naps (around 9, 12, and 3). Flexibility with nap times and lengths is often necessary at this age as their needs can change from one day to the next based on what they’ve been up to.
Nighttime sleep times will depend on both when the last nap ends and when your baby becomes sleepy. Aim for somewhere near 6 or 7 P.M.
At around 6 months of age, your baby is likely to need only two naps each day. Keep the first nap around 9 A.M. and try moving the second nap a little later, around 1 P.M. Regularity of both nap time and bed time becomes important during this stage as their circadian rhythms become more regular.
When you find that your baby only needs two naps, it can be helpful to move bedtime an hour or two earlier to help your baby get enough sleep. This is the time when some babies will begin sleeping through the night.
1 Year to 3 Years
Average Daily Sleep: 12-14 hours (Including Naps)
Ideal Bedtime: 7:00 – 9:00 P.M.
It is common for toddlers to not get enough sleep, which can result in their being cranky and acting out. Helping your toddler get plenty of shut-eye can help the whole family.
Around two to three years, children begin to need only one nap a day that lasts around 1-3.5 hours. An early bedtime is helpful for toddlers to clock enough hours at night. If their afternoon nap is on the longer side, they may not need to go to sleep until closer to 8 or 9 P.M.
3 Years to 6 Years
Average Daily Sleep: 10-13 hours (Including Naps)
Ideal Bedtime: 7:00 – 9:00 P.M.
As kids grow out of their toddler years, the primary change that happens is a need for shorter naps. Some children aged 3 to 6 will completely outgrow their need for a nap. Their total need for sleep during this time drops, roughly equivalent to the reduced time that they spend napping.
Your child might go to bed around the same time that they have been, between 7 and 9 P.M. Just be sure that your kids are being put to bed early enough to get enough sleep by the time they need to be up.
6 Years to 12 Years
Average Daily Sleep: 10-11 hours
Ideal Bedtime: 7:30 – 10:00 P.M.
As children grow older, they usually have fully outgrown their need for a nap. Most kids this age will only get around 9 hours of sleep, largely due to more social activities. School, friends, sports, and more can limit the amount of time that kids have to sleep.
Try to have your child go to bed at least 10 hours before they have to wake up. Sticking to this schedule can be tough, so just do the best that you can.
12 to 18 Years
Average Daily Sleep: 8-9 hours
Ideal Bedtime: 8:30 – 10:00 P.M.
Preteen and teenage years are some of the toughest for parents to enforce a healthy sleep schedule, but sleep remains a crucial aspect of your kid’s health, happiness, and overall performance.
With increased social obligations, homework, and part-time jobs, many teens struggle to get enough sleep. Work with your teens to help them understand how a good night’s rest can benefit their lives.
Work together to set goal bedtimes and wake up times during the week and on the weekend. Try not to have these times differ by more than two hours. If your kids sleep in too much on the weekends, it can lead to insomnia throughout the week.
Choosing the Right Bedtime
Once your kids have stopped napping, calculating their ideal bedtimes is fairly straightforward. The best strategy is to work backwards. Take the time that they need to wake up and count backwards to help them get the sleep that they need.
Take a 10 year old with a wake up time of 7 A.M. To get the recommended 10 to 11 hours of sleep, they should go to bed between 8 and 9 P.M.
A note on bedtimes: earlier bedtimes are essential for proper rest.
Have you ever noticed that once your kid stays up late that it’s challenging to get them to fall asleep? This second wind is caused by the release of stimulating brain chemicals like cortisol and adrenaline that happens when kids stay up too late. Getting them to stick with an earlier bedtime can help ensure that they sleep well during the night.
Related: Best mattress for kids
Additionally, kids will usually wake up early in the morning even if they go to bed later. As a result, kids need to get to bed early to catch enough Z’s.
Tips to Help Your Child Get Enough Sleep
Many children struggle with sleep. Just as with adult sleep troubles, a child’s sleep problems can often be fixed with some straightforward lifestyle changes. To help your children sleep better:
1. Limit Light Exposure Late in the Day
Our body’s biological clock is tied to the natural light/dark cycle. Our dependence on artificial light, TV, and other electronic devices makes it harder for people of all ages to fall asleep easily. To help your kids fall asleep, limit or eliminate the use of electronic devices an hour or two before bed.
2. Spend Time Outside During the Day
Getting plenty of natural daylight exposure can help set your child’s biological clock, allowing them to get sleepy early at night.
3. Stay Active
Physical activity early in the day can help kids sleep well. Just be careful that exercise isn’t too late in the day as this can make it hard to fall asleep.
4. Set a Sleep Schedule
Having regular bedtimes and wakeup times can help kids sleep well.
If you find that your kid struggles with healthy sleep, speak with your doctor or a sleep consultant. They can help you figure out what’s causing the difficulties. Just like adults, kids can experience sleep disorders that make proper sleep a challenge.
The ideal bedtime varies as kids get older. To help your kids get the right amount of sleep, prioritize naps when your kids are young and a regular sleep schedule as they grow older. Remember that there is no one-size-fits-all formula, so work together to figure out how to best help them get the sleep that they need to live their best lives.
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