Should You Throw Your Child’s Sleep Schedule Out the Door?

Little boy sleeping with teddy bear

So you’ve worked long and hard to get that perfect sleep schedule: early bedtime, tolerable wake-up time, and nap time in the middle of the day. But one night, your toddler has trouble falling asleep. And because she fell asleep later than usual, she slept in longer than usual. And because she slept in longer than usual, she’s not ready for a nap at her usual time.

Every child is different, so don’t be alarmed if your child’s nap schedule doesn’t match others.

The hours pass, and she gets crankier and crankier. She needs a nap! But if you let her fall asleep now, her bedtime will be delayed again, and the day will just repeat itself. Is your perfect sleep schedule a goner? Can you get it back? Should you even try?

According to the National Sleep Foundation, a regular sleep schedule is important, but that doesn't mean the routine can’t change, or that your children can’t have a say in what that routine is. I remember when my three-year-old stopped taking naps. She’d start acting cranky around dinnertime and often fell asleep right after. While I loved the early bedtime, I had trouble with the resulting early wake-up time!

MORE: Napping Guidelines }

I tried to enforce nap time, but I found myself more frustrated than I’d be if I’d just embraced the change and recognized that she was entering a new developmental stage and phasing her naps out. Infants need about 9 to 12 hours of sleep each night, with naps during the day; toddlers need 12 to 14 hours total (bedtime and nap time); preschoolers need 11 to 13 hours total (some nap, some don’t); and older children need 10 to 11 hours total.

What do you think?

Should You Throw Your Child’s Sleep Schedule Out the Door?

Tell us what you think!

9 comments

  1. Profile photo of erika erika says:

    Every child is different. And everyday is never the same.

  2. Profile photo of Jerilyn Jerilyn says:

    Oh wow this is very helpful knowing what to look for when wanting a second child but still so worth it. Im so for sure that two babies will be it.

  3. It depends on the child.

    For my two year old, I have learned it is extremely important to regulate his sleep, or we’re in for it. I had him on Melatonin to deal with his lack of sleep… after 1-2 weeks of that, I realized that I was wrong and that there had to be a better way.

    Now I make sure he goes to bed at 7:30, and wake him at 7:30, if he’s not awake yet. I have to cut his nap short, if I let him sleep, he easily sleeps 3-4 hours in the afternoon.. causing him to be awake until 10… 11… or worse! I leave him in his bed during these times, regardless if he’s actually sleeping. He needs that structure.

    I learned this the hard way, when after a doctor’s appointment he had a LATE nap (went to bed at 1 or 2pm and stupid me left him sleeping until dinner time). He was up ALL night. He sat in our bed, wide awake, until 4:30am. He didn’t even want to lay down.

    Lesson learned.

  4. Profile photo of LIZ says:

    shes in a really good schedule and i try to keep her in schedule outdoor too, but sometimes i just break the rule because im watching her having so much fun

  5. Profile photo of mommy nhoj mommy nhoj says:

    My 9-month old baby just changed her nap schedule making it hard for both of us to sleep early at night. Before she would nap between 11am-1pm and then another one between 5-6:30pm. This schedule will put her to sleep before 9pm. And lately, she started resisting nap time and her 1st nap schedule push forward to 1-3pm and then between 6-8pm. Making it really difficult to put her into sleep at night. She wants to play with us at night with her daddy around. Problem is -its late and daddy has morning 12hr shift work! I need to review tha napping guidelines, tips from other moms and the experts!

  6. Profile photo of Amanda Amanda says:

    This is good info for the future. My little one is only 8 weeks old right now and just starting to get a set schedule.

  7. Profile photo of Carey Carey says:

    I have a 2 and almost 4 year old. They have different sleep schedules and it is hard bc the 2 year old wants to stay up with his big sister. Having a routine does help in that way so they know ahead of time when they are each going to bed. I did try to make them have the same bedtime but my almost 4 year old was never sleepy at the same time my 2 year old was. After trying to make her go to bed at 9 o’clock with the 2 year old, I noticed she was never tired enough to fall asleep. She is a kid that does not need a lot of sleep. I believe that you should not make you child go to sleep if you know they are not ready (and you as parent can tell when they are ready and when they are not). I try not to let other peoples opinions stop me from doing what it best for my kids. And listening to and watching their actions is the biggest indicator when they should go to bed. I always try the bedtime stories first and then quiet time. If she isn’t ready for sleep then, I don’t make her. Hope this doesn’t make me a bad mom.

  8. Profile photo of Marshall Marshall says:

    I feel like I’m going through this now with my little one. He gets cranky in the evening and is falling asleep sooner (which is what I wanted) but now he gets up at 6:30 instead of 8! Either way, he is on a schedule, and life brings changes. Thanks Everyday Family for the helpful tips!

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