What time is bedtime for children? A parent's cheat sheet

    Updated 27 September 2022 |
    Published 07 June 2019
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    Reviewed by Marina Savchenko, MD, Pediatric Neurologist, Medical Consultant at Flo
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    For parents with young children, getting your kids used to a bedtime routine and into bed every day can be a momentous and joyful occasion. Having your children go to bed at the same time every day can create a more organized and well-rested routine for everyone in the family. So what should children's bedtime be?

    What is bedtime? Flo's definition

    If we left it up to kids, they would never go the bed at the same time every day. They might fall asleep early one night, exhausted from activities, causing them to wake up early the next morning. The following day, they might take a nap in the afternoon and stay up playing until the late hours of the night.

    Bedtime is the time and routine that you establish when your child needs to be in bed for the night. The exact routine can be customized to fit your family's preferences, including your child's. Some children like to have a bedtime story; others just need to be told it's time for bed. It's helpful to establish a regular routine for your children. This creates a sense of order and reliability in their day-to-day lives.

    How much should babies sleep?

    Depending on their age, children need different amounts of sleep. A newborn needs approximately 8 hours of sleep during the day and 8 hours and 30 minutes of sleep at night. As children grow older, they tend to need less sleep during the day and sleep longer through the night.

    Here's how much sleep a child needs, according to their age:

    • 3 months old: 4–5 hours during the day and 10–11 hours at night
    • 6 months old: 3 hours during the day and 11 hours at night
    • 1 year old: 2–3 hours during the day and 11 hours at night
    • 2 years old: 1 hour and 30 minutes during the day and 11 hours and 30 minutes at night
    • 3 years old: 0–45 minutes during the day and 11–12 hours at night
    • 4 years old: 11 hours and 30 minutes at night
    • 5 years old: 11 hours at night

    As your child grows older, they'll need to sleep less. By the time your kid is 10 years old, they'll only need to sleep 9 hours and 45 minutes every night. And when they're teenagers, 9 hours will be enough. Many children like to take naps when they're older, but this isn't absolutely necessary.

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    Why is bedtime important?

    There are many wonderful benefits associated with creating a regular bedtime for your children. Kids rely on their parents to create routines and a structured day-to-day life, which can help their wellbeing and development.

    Scientific research has shown that establishing a consistent bedtime routine for children can result in earlier bedtimes, increased sleep duration, fewer night wakings, and faster sleep onset. A regular bedtime can also decrease the amount and severity of daytime behavior problems, as perceived by parents.

    But that's not all. Creating a consistent bedtime for children can improve many areas of child development. These areas include language development, literacy, behavioral regulation, emotional control, family functioning, memory, readiness for school, attention, cognitive flexibility, and parent–child attachment.

    As a result, experts agree that establishing a bedtime routine in early childhood is a great way to encourage positive development for children.

    Additionally, the activities that surround a bedtime routine can also be beneficial for your child's development. Here are some of the most common activities associated with bedtime and the areas that they benefit:

    • Brushing teeth, bathing — personal hygiene
    • Cuddling, hugging — physical contact
    • Breastfeeding, bottle feeding, healthy snacks — nutrition
    • Reading stories, singing lullabies — communication

    Although these are relatively simple activities, they're a great way for your child to learn about routines and everyday life. This knowledge will be invaluable as they grow older and start to take more responsibility over their bodies and routines.

    Is it necessary to tuck babies into bed?

    When your baby is very young, they might not need a bedtime story to fall asleep. However, that doesn't mean that there aren't certain steps that you need to take to ensure that they have a safe night.

    Tucking your baby into bed properly each night can reduce the risk of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS). When you put them down, place your baby on their back. Once your baby can roll over, you don't need to worry about them rolling onto their tummy or side during the night.

    If they're using a blanket, keep it tucked in below their shoulders. Avoid pillows, and keep your baby's head and face uncovered at night.

    If you're co-sleeping, it's also important to avoid drinking alcohol. If you suffer from any sleep disorders or take medications that can impair your cognitive functioning, it's best not to share a bed with your infant. Try not to fall asleep with your baby on a sofa or armchair.

    SIDS is very rare; however, fear of it causes postpartum anxiety for many parents. Making sure that your baby is sleeping in a safe position can help reduce the risk of SIDS.

    Bedtime and sleep time: What is the difference?

    It's very normal for children to need some time to wind down before actually falling asleep. If this is the case for your child, set an earlier bedtime and allow them to have some time to relax before they need to be asleep.

    You can set aside an hour before bed to perform relaxing activities such as reading a story, singing lullabies, or listening to calm music. This can make it easier for your child to fall asleep once it's time. Avoid activities that are too stimulating, like computer games or watching television.

    It's important for your child to be awake when they get into bed. This helps them learn how to fall asleep in their own bed more easily.

    Establishing a bedtime routine is one of the first routines that your child will develop. Having a bedtime routine can also lead to better sleep for the entire family.

    Studies have shown that children who follow a structured bedtime routine from early childhood have a positive developmental outcome when compared to children who don't. Establishing a bedtime for children is a good way to help ensure their proper development.


    “Establishing Good Sleep Habits: 12 to 18 Months.” BabyCentre UK, 12 Apr. 1999, www.nhs.uk/live-well/sleep-and-tiredness/how-much-sleep-do-kids-need/.

    Jason Sherman, D. O. “7 Ways To Help Your Toddler Stay. In. Bed.” Cleveland Clinic, 20 Sept. 2022, my.clevelandclinic.org/health/articles/14304-getting-your-child-to-go-to-bed--stay-there.

    Kitsaras, George, et al. “Bedtime Routines Child Wellbeing & Development.” BMC Public Health, vol. 18, no. 1, Mar. 2018, p. 386.

    Mindell, Jodi A., et al. “Bedtime Routines for Young Children: A Dose-Dependent Association with Sleep Outcomes.” Sleep, vol. 38, no. 5, May 2015, pp. 717–22.

    Mindell, Jodi A., and Ariel A. Williamson. “Benefits of a Bedtime Routine in Young Children: Sleep, Development, and beyond.” Sleep Medicine Reviews, vol. 40, Aug. 2018, pp. 93–108.

    “Reduce the Risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS).” NHS, www.nhs.uk/conditions/pregnancy-and-baby/reducing-risk-cot-death/. Accessed 27 Sept. 2022.

    History of updates

    Current version (27 September 2022)

    Reviewed by Marina Savchenko, MD, Pediatric Neurologist, Medical Consultant at Flo

    Published (07 June 2019)

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