How to Shift Your Child’s Bedtime Later

4-16 months

May 30, 2022

Did you know you can change your child’s bedtime per the seasons?  We love having a later bedtime in the summer, which sometimes means they sleep later. As a pediatric sleep consultant, I’m going to share how to shift your child’s bedtime later!

What is an ideal bedtime routine?

Now, before I even tell you about pushing bedtime later, maybe you’re watching this and saying you don’t want to push your toddler’s bedtime later.

The bedtime routine is already such a struggle to get them into bed. And finally, when they fall asleep, it is 9, 10, or 11 o’clock. I get it. This is exactly the place to be because you need a plan. If you don’t have a routine, or if you don’t have anything in place, you need a plan on how to create a bedtime routine that is fun and gets your child in bed between ideally 7 and 8:00 pm and fall asleep within 15 minutes. Struggling with bedtime? We have toddler and preschool programs available for you to start right now.

If you do have a rock-solid routine and you would like to enjoy a little more time with them in the evenings, go for it. In fact, that’s what we liked to do with our two girls when they were three and five years old. We loved pushing their bedtime a little bit in the summer, so we could go on walks after dinner or play outside. Just think of all those fun summer memories that you can create with your little ones.

In the evening time, I have vivid memories when I was growing up of going outside and running around with the kids on our block. I want our girls to experience that too, and not feel the pressure to get them to bed early. Our 6:45 to 7:00 pm bedtime fits perfectly for school schedules, but it’s not ideal for those long summer nights.

I have worked with families all throughout to be able to adjust their child’s bedtime a little later. It’s not as crazy as it sounds. Let me preface this with that this plan is not for babies. I cannot get your baby to go to bed later. I don’t really ever talk about that because your baby has a very finite awake window. More commonly, babies actually want and crave an earlier bedtime. And if you’re wondering about those wake windows, we do have a free schedule generator.

How to adjust your Toddler’s Bedtime Later

For your toddler who is taking one nap or for your preschooler who doesn’t nap, we actually could start to shift their bedtime a little bit at a time. I like to use 15-minute increments as the easiest way to test this out because if 15 minutes makes a giant difference in their morning wake time, we probably shouldn’t adjust their bedtime.

So let me explain: just because we put your child to bed later, doesn’t mean they’re going to wake up later. I know it seems like that’s a connection. And I don’t know when that happens, but it is probably closer to middle school or the teen years.

Your toddler and preschooler really does need a bedtime between 7 and 8; 8:30 is the latest I’ve ever gone. Now, if you’ve been stuck in a rut from preschool schedules, school schedules, or just life during the school year, and they have to go to bed at seven, but you’d like to adjust it to 7:30 or 8, we can do this with 15-minute increments.

How to adjust Your child’s schedule with 15-minute Increments

So I’m going to use 7:00 pm as an example because that’s what we do. Our girls traditionally are in bed by 7:00 PM at the latest on a school night, at the earliest 6:45. They’re asleep within 10 minutes. We’re all good.

So I like to camp out on a 7:15 bedtime for about a week (one day isn’t enough time to judge whether it is going to work). While you do adjust the schedule, really keep in mind, what time are they waking up?

Are they waking up even earlier than they were at 7:00? Maybe you put them down at 7:00 and they sleep until 6:30 or 6:45. And they’re getting an awesome night of sleep. But if you move bedtime to 7:15, are they now waking up at 5:30 am? Sometimes later bedtimes can create early wakings.

Every child is a little bit different. Again, there’s nothing black and white about sleep. You’re going to have to experiment with this on your own, but test out 15-minute increments forward after one week and see how it goes. Did they wake up at the same time in the morning or did they sleep a little bit later? Great. You’re in the clear and you can adjust another 15-minute increment.

Now we can go to 7:30— I would only suggest moving their schedule to 30 minutes at most.

For our little ones, they’re going to bed at 7:30 PM and they’ll wake up at 7:00 AM. So generally for our kiddos, they’ve never actually fully slept until 7:30, but they’re getting 11 and a half hours of sleep. And I’m fine with that. On school days, they would need to get up at like 6:15-6:30 am so in the summer, waking at 7:00 am feels amazing.

Remember 11 to 12 hours is our goal here. If they’re getting, that’s awesome. We’re good. If you’ve pushed them all the way to 7:30 and they start waking up at 5, you’re going to need to go back to 7:15 or the original bedtime. Every kiddo is going to be different. And I have worked with a lot of kids who are extremely sensitive to change.

So, test it out. Are you ready to enjoy those summer evenings? I like to use that extra half hour together to go for a walk after dinner, to play games outside, to do bubbles, chalk, and all those fun summer activities.

Sweet dreams. See you next time.

Becca Campbell
Your Pediatric Sleep Consultant


How to shift your child's bedtime later | Little Z Sleep

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