What time should babies and toddlers go to bed? We asked the sleep experts

Parents have been heatedly debating their kids’ bedtime this week after a UK teacher’s social media post sharing the exact time kids should go to bed before school went viral.

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Sleep is always on our mind – often because we really need some, but most of the time we think about our kids’ sleep. Are they getting enough (we’re definitely not)? Do they need more? What time should they go to bed?

A UK teacher solved this mystery when she shared a handy guide showing exactly what time kids should go to bed depending on their age – and what time they need to get up in the morning.

See the chart below:

This chart is only relevant for kids 5-years-and older which prompted us to ask the question – how much sleep do kids younger than 5 need?

We called on the sleep experts at Good Night, a child and baby sleep consultancy, to find out how much sleep younger kids and babies need.

Below is a table showing the number of naps for kids 0- 5 years, how many hours they should nap during the day and how long they should sleep at night:

Age Number of naps Total length of naptime hours Night time sleep hours Total night time and naptime sleep
0 -3 months 4 – 5 6 – 9 11 – 12 16 – 19
3 – 6 months 3 3 – 5 11 -12 15
6 – 12 months 2 2 – 4 – 5 11 -12 14
12 months 1 – 2 2 – 3 11.5 – 12 13.5 – 14
18 months 1 – 2 (usually 1) 2 – 3 (usually 2) 11.5 – 12 13 – 14
2 – 5 years 0 – 1 0 – 2.5 11 – 11.5 11 – 13

We know, you’re so sleep deprived it may feel like your little one is not sleeping enough. If your child is not getting the amount of sleep mentioned above, Good Night’s sleep experts have these tips that could help your child sleep better.

A consistent bedtime routine

Start your bedtime routine with a nice, relaxing bath – while still keeping it fun and no longer than 30 minutes. It’s best if your little one has dinner before his bath. Try not to give your child any foods containing sugar or caffeine before bedtime. And try to avoid screens (TV, tablet, cell phones) before bedtime.

Naps are important

Sleep induces sleep. Moms often think that their child will sleep better at night if they keep them awake during the day, but this isn’t how it works with kids.

ALSO SEE: Tips to get your toddler to nap during the day

Put your child to bed early

Putting your child to bed as late as possible also won’t make him sleep better. Good Night recommends putting your child to bed between 7 and 8pm. We’re guilty of doing this – letting our kids stay up a little later on weekends so we can sleep in on a Sunday, but we found out the hard way that it has the opposite effect and sometimes kids even wake up earlier. (Bye, bye relaxing Sunday morning)

Give your child time to fall asleep on his own

Developing good sleep skills is a natural process (like walking and talking). From a young age, give your baby the opportunity to fall asleep without sleep aids like rocking, soothers, music or drinking from a bottle or breastfeeding.

ALSO SEE: Is your child restless at night? These 5 tips will help him sleep better

Living & Loving readers share their kids’ bedtimes:

“My 7-year-old goes to bed between 8pm and 8:30pm. My 2-year-old is usually fast asleep by 8pm almost every night. It’s the routine that I have had with them since they were babies and it’s been working well for us. However, with my oldest daughter – she used to fight bedtime and wouldn’t go to sleep where my youngest just falls asleep on her own without any fights.” – Vicki Brown

“Our 3-year-old goes to bed at 20:00, weekdays and weekends. That is now if we don’t have to read like 10 stories and if she doesn’t decide to start praying for everything under the sun😊. When this happens, it’s normally around 20:30/20:45.” – Jocelyn Jacinta Jansen

“My boy is 5 next week. 7pm is bath time and by 7:30 he is tucked up in bed. Set that time when he was still a baby and the routine of it works for us.” – Claire Heydenrych

“20:00 is sleeping time but they dose off around 20:30 weekdays. Weekends I’m not fussy, sometimes they go to bed when adults do. They are 8 and 4-years-old.” – Nonela Khoza

“My 3-year-old goes to bed at any time between 7.30 and 8pm. Usually wakes up at 7am on weekdays and 8am on weekends. No nap in the day.” – Melissa Ramdutt

“20:00 but since lockdown they sleep at 21:00.” Mpho MaFaith LeGrace

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