What time should your child go to bed ?

Sleep hygiene

Managing children’s sleep can prove complex when they don’t feel tired in the evening, wake up regularly during the night… not to mention that their sleep needs are quite different from those of an adult. During this back-to-school period, they also need to transition from a holiday schedule to a school routine. Here are some tips to better understand your child’s sleep and help them develop good habits to stay energized throughout the year.

1. Different sleep needs according to age

If a newborn sleeps practically all day, the structure of a child’s sleep will evolve with age. By 6 months, the child needs around 15 hours of sleep during the night. They gradually wake up less during the night compared to the first few weeks. From the age of one, the child will only nap for a few hours during the day, and to compensate, they will extend their nighttime sleep.

Between 3 and 5 years old, it’s estimated that a child has had a good night’s sleep if they have at least 12 hours of cumulative sleep during the night. The child will take a nap during the day and sleep through the night. During this period, bedtime difficulties are common because sleep is now associated with nightmares, strange shadows, and scary noises. Seek to reassure your child before they go to bed and make them feel safe.

Gradually, and up to 10-12 years old, the amount of sleep necessary for a child to feel rested will decrease to approach 10 hours. The afternoon nap will also eventually disappear, and bedtime will become later: from 8 pm at around 5-6 years old to 9 pm at around 8 years old, and to 10 pm at the beginning of adolescence.

2. What time to choose for bedtime?

Taking into account the child’s sleep needs according to their age and the planned wake-up time, it’s possible to determine the ideal bedtime. If the child’s sleep needs are met, their night will have a beneficial and restful effect.

This table depends, of course, on other criteria besides bedtime, wake-up time, and age. The displayed schedules give you an idea of when to put your child to bed, but each child has different sleep needs that need to be considered to avoid putting them to bed too early or too late. Also, consider daytime naps, which are very important for young children’s sleep:

  • Around 4 months: 3 naps, one in the morning, one in the early afternoon, and another in the late afternoon.
  • From 9 to 18 months: One nap in the morning and one in the early afternoon
  • From 2 to 4 years: A nap after the midday meal.
  • Around 4-5 years: Maintain a period of rest in the late afternoon.

3. Preparing for sleep during the day

The bedtime hour isn’t the most important criterion for restorative sleep. It’s the quality of sleep that will allow the child to wake up refreshed. For this, it’s important to prepare for sleep in advance:

  • Taking care of homework early in the evening prevents the child from going to bed with an active brain.
  • Similarly, having dinner early helps avoid digestion interfering with falling asleep.
  • Video games or television should be avoided before bedtime; the blue light from screens can hinder falling asleep. The ideal is to establish a routine that helps the child recognize bedtime.
  • Spending quiet time with them, telling them a story, or simply talking will calm them down and make them feel secure, promoting falling asleep.
  • Teaching them to recognize the signs of sleepiness—such as rubbing their eyes or shivering—signals that it’s time to slip into bed. This will make falling asleep easier and their sleep more restful!