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Bedtime Schedule: An Age-by-Age Guide

Jennifer Kelly Geddes
Dec. 22, 2015

Wondering how much sleep your little one needs? Here's everything you need to know!

Do you get chills every time someone utters the word "bedtime?" You're not alone! It can be quite a struggle to wrangle your little ones into bed at the designated hour. Here's everything you need to know about enforcing a bedtime schedule, from information on how much shut-eye your kids need at each age to tips on avoiding sibling animosity concerning different sleeping times.

How Many Hours of Sleep Should Your Kids Get a Night?
"The consensus is that because kids are developing physically and mentally, they require more sleep at certain ages," says Dr. Michael Breus, a sleep expert and clinical psychologist.

Here's the breakdown of how many hours of sleep your kids should be getting at each stage in their life, based on the National Sleep Foundation's recommendations:

  1. Newborns (0–3 Months)
    Tiny babies have an irregular sleep pattern, as they tend to catch an hour or two of shut-eye at different points throughout a 24-hour period. You can expect your newborn to sleep a total of 14 to 17 hours a day, including naps.
  2. Infants (4–11 Months)
    Infants need a little less sleep than their newborn counterparts, though they still take naps on a regular basis. Babies in this age group tend to sleep for 12 to 15 hours a day.
  3. Toddlers (1–2 Years)
    This is quite the eventful age for your little one! Before you know it, he's walking, cruising, climbing and running all over the place -- and all of this movement sure can tire him out. Don't give up on the nap just yet, as your child might still indulge in one or two of these mini snooze sessions over the course of 24 hours. You can expect your toddler to sleep for 11 to 14 hours a day.
  4. Preschoolers (3–5 Years)
    At this age, many kids head off to some sort of school program for at least half of the day. Learning to share, singing, partaking in snack time and playing with others can take a toll on little bodies. Preschoolers generally sleep for 10 to 13 hours a day, and they may take a brief nap once in a while.
  5. School-Age Kids (6–13 Years)
    At this age, naps aren't really a thing anymore (darn!), so nighttime zzz's are critical. You can expect your grade-schooler to sleep 9 to 11 hours a day.
  6. Teenagers (14–17 Years)
    Ah, the teen years! For the first time, your kids might actually want to go to bed and get some rest. Your lanky youngster needs to sleep for 8 to 10 hours a day.

What Should You Do When You Have Kids With Different Bedtime Schedules?
During the years when you have a toddler and preschooler who are on different schedules, the bedtime dance can be a bit tricky. Here are three tips to help this process run more smoothly:

  1. Try to Make The Post-Bedtime Routine Less Exciting
    "Younger children tend to be upset at their bedtimes because they think they're missing out on something fun that an older brother or sister is doing," says Dr. Breus. As such, you might want to consider setting up a late-night routine for your older child that's on the low-key side. For instance, your little one will likely be less upset about missing out on quiet reading time than a video game session. Check out 20 Timeless Bedtime Stories for Kids for some inspiration.
  2. Offer Rewards
    Be sure to praise your child for good bedtime behavior! For instance, you should take note of the times he settles down without putting up a fight, and plan to reward him for it. Dr. Breus suggests that you "set up a chart for going to bed in a timely manner and then allow [your child] to stay up 15–30 minutes later on a weekend as a prize."
  3. Be Frank
    Give your kids the overview on each of their bedtime rules and stand strong. According to Dr. Breus, "Take the time to educate both children on the importance of sleep and explain why developmentally one needs to go to bed earlier then the other."

For more tips, check out Establishing a Bedtime Routine for Your Child.

Do you have any other ideas on how to tackle the great bedtime schedule debacle? Let us know in the comments below!

Jennifer Kelly Geddes is a New York-based writer and editor who specializes in parenting, health and child development. She's a frequent contributor to Care.com and the mom of two teen girls.

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