The 2 Signs It’s Time To Adjust Bedtime Later for Your Toddler

3 years+

Jun 19, 2024

How do you know when it’s time to adjust bedtime later for your toddler? Are you finding each night is a battle to get your toddler to sleep? Struggling with adjusting your toddler’s bedtime? You’re not alone. Many parents face the challenge of knowing when and how to shift their child’s sleep schedule.

In this blog, we’ll explore the key signs that indicate it’s time to push bedtime later, practical steps for making these adjustments, and tips to ensure a smooth transition.

Whether your toddler is taking too long to fall asleep or waking up too early, this blog  on adjusting toddler bedtime will help you create a sleep routine that keeps your little one happy and well-rested.

I recently had a question come into my Instagram DMs from Emily in Austin, TX asking, “How do I know it’s time to push bedtime later for my two and a half-year-old son who naps two hours a day at daycare?” This is a common question, and I’m here to help you determine when it’s time to adjust bedtime.


The 2 Signs Your Toddler Needs a Later Bedtime

There are many signs that you can look at when deciding when to adjust bedtime later for your toddler. Your toddler may show one or both of these, but most of all it’s important to track these signs!

Do not adjust your toddler’s bedtime to be later if you only see these signs 1-2 times per week. Track for an entire week and if you’re seeing this happen 5 out of 7 days…it’s you’ll know that it’s time to push bedtime later!

Taking Too Long to Fall Asleep

  • Ideally, your child should fall asleep within 10 to 15 minutes. If it consistently takes 20 to 60 minutes, it might be time to push bedtime later.
  • Track this over a week. If five out of seven nights, your child takes longer than 20 minutes to fall asleep, start adjusting bedtime later.

Early Morning Wakings

  • If your child is waking up early, around 5:00-5:30 AM instead of their usual 6:30-7:00 AM, they might need more awake time before bed.
  • Again, observe this pattern for a week. Consistent early wakings mean it’s time to tweak the bedtime schedule.

is your toddler getting enough sleep

How to Adjust Bedtime

Adjusting bedtime later for your toddler starts with making small time adjustments to avoid disrupting your child’s sleep patterns.

Start by moving bedtime 15 minutes later. If bedtime is 7:30 PM, move it to 7:45 PM. Try this for five nights and observe.

Are they falling asleep within 10-15 minutes? Are they sleeping a full 10-12 hours still? (See National Sleep Foundation for sleep needs chart)

If 7:45 PM isn’t enough, move bedtime to 8:00 PM.

Continue adjusting in small increments until your child falls asleep within our goal range of 10-15 minutes.

how to adjust bedtime later for your toddler

Handling Daycare Naps

How do you adjust bedtime later if your child is at daycare and is offered a long daytime nap?

Emily mentioned that her son naps for two hours at daycare. While many toddlers are ready to say goodbye to their mid-day nap between 2.5-3 years old, it is common to see naps still taking place at daycare for this age group.

If your toddler is between 2.5-3 years old and napping for 1.5+ hours during the day they may naturally need a later bedtime because they are getting this nap!

Within my Complete Schedule Guide I outline how naps change from 0-3 years old and detail how this nap changes in length and awake time.

Seasonal Considerations

Yes, you can adjust bedtime later for a toddler but we should always consider seasonal changes for them as well!

During the summer, children are more active, which might naturally help with a smoother bedtime. You might find that when they are more active during these summer months a later bedtime actually causes them to be overtired

signs to adjust bedtime later for a toddler

In winter, children are often less active, especially outdoors, which can lead to bedtime struggles.

If you find that these signs for adjusting bedtime are showing during the winter months you can certainly move bedtime later, but also make sure you’re allowing playtime in the bedtime routine to get the final wiggles out!

Ensure your child is active enough during the day, and if it’s too cold to go outside, get creative with fun activities inside (like making an obstacle course with couch cushions and other items in your house!). Need more ideas? See one of favorites: Days with Grey for tons of ideas!


Observe Your Child’s Mood

As you use these methods to adjust bedtime later for your toddler you’ll want to closely observe your child’s mood. 

If your child is unusually tired and falling apart by dinnertime, opt for an early bedtime instead of pushing it later. 

Similarly, if you notice that adjusting bedtime later by 15 minute increments leads to a more difficult bedtime routine for your toddler, you’ll want to shift back earlier.

If you adjust your toddler’s bedtime later and they are not having any issues with the later time, they are falling asleep within 10-15 minutes and sleeping well all night long…you’ve found your new goal bedtime!


Utilize Our Complete Schedule Guide

Are you all for adjusting to a later bedtime for your toddler but wonder if they’re getting enough sleep? If you’re unsure about your child’s sleep schedule, check out our Complete Schedule Guide!

This guide breaks down schedules for children from newborn up to four years old, ensuring your family stays happy, healthy, and well-rested! 

how much sleep does my toddler need


Using these signs you can quickly find out if you should adjust bedtime later for your toddler!

Emily, thank you for your question! If you’re wondering whether your toddler is ready for a later bedtime, review the telltale signs and feel confident knowing how to adjust your toddler’s bedtime with these tips:

Signs your toddler is ready for a later bedtime:

  1. They’re taking more than 20-60 minutes to fall asleep at bedtime
  2. They’re waking up earlier each morning (like 5-5:30 am instead of their usual 7am start time)

How to make the adjustment:

  • Start by making small adjustments at first with a 15 minute later bedtime to begin with and observe this change for 5 nights.
  • If this wasn’t enough after 5 nights, continue making 15 minute adjustments until your toddler falls asleep within the goal range of 10-15 minutes).

Other things to consider:

  • Naps: if your child is taking a 2-2.5 hour midday nap, try capping the nap to 1 hour and 30 minutes to allow for more awake time before bedtime.
  • Activity level: make sure your child is getting plenty of play time (and outdoor time if weather permits) so they can burn off all that toddler energy before bedtime.
  • Mood: Is your child unusually tired and falling apart come dinnertime? It may not be time to adjust bedtime later just yet.

Unsure what your child’s daily schedule should look like? Check out our Complete Schedule Guide to be fully confident your child has the sleep they need!


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