6 Ways Timing Can Affect Your Toddler/Preschooler Sleep (including how late is too late for bedtime)
Updated: Apr 26
Transitioning from the toddler to preschool years can be challenging in many ways (hello, tantrums), and sleep is at the top of the challenge list for many families. Sleep problems have been found in 35% of children less than 2 years old, in 23% of 2-3-year-olds, and in 14% of 4-6-year-olds.
You may be surprised to hear just how much timing can impact your child’s sleep. As children transition from infancy to toddler years, and from toddler years to preschool years, the timing of sleep can change quite a bit.
Check out 6 ways timing can affect your toddler or preschooler's sleep.
Always Before 9PM
The ideal bedtime for toddlers and preschoolers can vary depending on naps, routines, and even genetics. However, the research is clear. Nothing good happens after 9PM.
The National Sleep Foundation took a poll of 1473 parents in 2004 to examine associations between sleep hygiene (how and when you get your kiddo to fall asleep) and sleep patterns in children ages 0-10 years. Across all ages, from newborns to 10-year-olds, children who fell asleep after 9 PM had poorer sleep.
Infants with a bedtime after 9PM got 1.3 hrs less sleep at night and took longer to fall asleep. Toddlers got 78 minutes less sleep, preschoolers got 48 minutes less sleep, and school-aged children got 60 minutes less sleep when going to bed after 9PM.
If that’s not convincing enough, this study also found that children with a bedtime later than 9PM also tend to have more overnight wakings.
Sleep Pro Suggestion: If you are looking for one easy boundary to set, this is it. Get your kiddo to bed before 9PM.
Does My Child Still Need to Nap?
Naps are great. They help our kiddos get through the day. Or do they help parents get through the day? Maybe both.
However, as children develop, they become better able to consolidate sleep.
By 18 months, most babes are down to 1 nap during the day
50% of 3-year-olds still require a daytime nap
8% of 4-year-olds nap occasionally
14% of 5-year-olds nap daily – 7% sleep for 1 hr, 7% sleep for 2 hours
3% of 5-year-olds nap occasionally
5% of 6-year-olds nap, most of them occasional nappers
Less than 1% of 7-year-olds nap occasionally
Children begin to drop naps as they get older because they need less sleep.
Sleep Pro Suggestion: If your child is resisting naps... ask yourself a few questions.
What is his mood like throughout the day? How well does he sleep overnight? If you have a kiddo who makes it through the day able to learn, play, and interact well, but is grumpy for the final hour of his day, he may no longer need a nap. Consider moving his bedtime a little earlier and instituting quiet time in place of nap time.
However, if you have a kiddo who is resisting naps, but melts down in the late afternoon/early evening hours, he may still need a nap. Consider having a regular nap location and routine, and moving nap time a little bit later in the afternoon.