How to Set the Perfect Toddler Bedtime

Are you facing resistance at night when your toddler reaches their bedtime? Most experts would point towards factors such as lack of discipline or bedtime routine as the cause. However, recent information has revealed for the first time that physiology also plays a big role. A toddler bedtime needs to be on a precise schedule that aligns with your child’s internal clock.


A recent study by the University of Colorado Boulder has revealed that 7:40 pm is, on average, the time when a child’s internal clock is telling them to prepare them for bed. This happens when melatonin levels begin to increase in the evening. It is best to schedule toddler bedtimes about 30 minutes from this point. Toddlers put to bed before this onset are prone to bedtime resistance and difficulty falling asleep.


“The findings are important because about 25 percent of toddlers and preschoolers have problems settling after bedtime”, said CU-Boulder Assistant Professor Monique LeBourgeois. “Evening sleep disturbance can include difficulties falling asleep, bedtime resistance, tantrums, and episodes known as “curtain calls” that manifest themselves as calling out from bed or coming out of the bedroom, often repeatedly, for another story, glass of water or bathroom trip”, she said.


How to Determine the Best Toddler Bedtime

It can be difficult deciding what your toddler’s bedtime should be. You need to find that sweet spot that aligns with their internal clock, and also allows enough hours in the night for them to get the proper amount of sleep.


It is possible that your child may have a later time for melatonin onset. The best way to figure this out is to track your toddler’s bedtime when they fall asleep naturally. Then you can take this information to determine when to begin your bedtime routine and schedule a bedtime.


The thing you need to watch out for is the use of electronic devices and televisions in the evening. Light directly affects the onset of melatonin. It is always a good strategy to limit your child’s exposure to light before bed.


This doesn’t stop at TV’s, iPads and Computers. Post toddler bedtime requests for drinks and one last hug can also affect melatonin onset if children are exposed to other household lights. It is always important to have a strict toddler bedtime routine in place to eliminate these problems.


Average Bedtimes for Toddlers by Age



Total Hours



12-18 months old 13.5-14 7:00 – 8:15 Bedtimes should be scheduled about 4 hours from afternoon nap.
18 months – 3 years 13-14 7:00 – 8:15 Naps will usually end during this age. Adjust toddler bedtime to ensure they are still getting the total amount of sleep they need each day.
3+ years 11-12 7:00 – 8:30 Again, adjust bedtime for lack of naps. Total hours of sleep needed per day will start to decrease with each year.


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Toddler Bedtime


What About Summer and Weekend Bedtimes for Kids?

It is good practice to only adjust your toddler’s bedtime by 30 minutes on the weekends.

Summer time poses the biggest challenge. It is difficult to maintain a strict sleep schedule during these months. Don’t worry, as long as you begin adjusting back to your toddler’s normal bedtime a few weeks before school starts, they will be fine. Reduce bedtime by 20-30 minutes every 3rd or 4th night until you hit your target time.


Signs Your Toddler May Not Be Getting Enough Sleep:

A toddler’s lack of sleep can manifest itself in many ways including:

  • Crankiness
  • Irritability
  • Trouble Concentrating During the Day
  • Having a Difficult Time Falling Asleep
  • Poor Qualtiy of Sleep
  • Having a Hard Time Getting Up In the Morning
  • Emotional Distress


The Ultimate Toddler Sleep Advice:

This toddler sleep guide does not need to be read in any particular order

  • Chapter 1: Proper Toddler Sleep Schedule
  • Chapter 2: Setting the Perfect Toddler Bedtime (YOU ARE HERE)
  • Chapter 3: The Ultimate Bedtime Routine for Toddlers
  • Chapter 4: Toddler Napping Tips and Schedule
  • Chapter 5: Is My Child Ready for a Real Bed?
  • Chapter 6: Advanced Tips: Crib to Bed Transition
  • Chapter 7: Best Bed Choice for a Toddler
  • Chapter 8: How to Stop a Toddler From Waking up in the Middle of the Night
  • Chapter 9: Help Your Toddler Give up the Bottle
  • Chapter 10: Tips for Ending the Pacifier Habit
  • Chapter 11: Eliminate Bedtime Tantrums Once and For All
  • Chapter 12: How to Stop Toddler Bed Wetting


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