The Best Bedtime for a Toddler is 9:30 p.m. And I'll tell you why.

My kids go to bed between 930-10 each night.

girl sleep in bed
9:30 is the best toddler bedtime.
stressed mom holding Starbucks Coffee mug
9:30 bedtimes mean I'm not rushing to the coffee in the morning. 
That’s right 9:30 pm or more like 9:45. This is the optimal time for toddlers to go to sleep. Or at least it is for my toddler. My children are ages one and a half and three and their bedtime begins at 9 pm daily. Nine is when we begin our calm down routine of cleaning up, baths, pajamas, brushing teeth and story time. So, they’re really not sleep until around 930. This has made our days and lives so much better. Everyone is well rested and this diminishes the cranky morning attitudes. Well mostly my morning attitude. I have to admit this schedule makes me happy. And without a happy momma, no one’s going to be happy. 9:30 bedtimes mean I’m not rushing to the coffee in the morning.

Why the late bedtime?

There are many reasons for children to have a late bedtime. But what exactly is a late bedtime. Who decides what time your children should go to bed. No one knows your schedule, except you. The same way no one can tell you what time your children should wake up in the morning. We all know that a healthy sleep pattern is important for everyone. As a parent, I understand this to be especially true for children. From the moments our children are born we try to put them on a sleep schedule as soon as possible. We want them well rested. There’s nothing worse than a sleep deprived cranky newborn or toddler. But, the most important part is to understand what a good quality sleep schedule looks like.

What is quality sleep? 

A good sleep schedule consists of going to sleep around the same time each day. Then one must enjoy that sleep uninterrupted for an age appropriate amount of time. According to what most people say young children need around 11-14 hours of sleep each day. The National Sleep Foundation agrees with this range. This includes nap time. We always hear about the number of hours our children need to sleep. Pediatricians ask us “are they getting enough sleep?” Some even suggest that toddlers can't make it past 7:30 pm. And if you keep them up later you’ll miss their "sleep window" which would lead to bedtime struggles due to over tiredness. But what is this time based off of? Shouldn’t our children’s bedtime be based off when they need to wake up. In my household I couldn’t imagine my children waking up at 5 am. They are not old enough to eliminate naps (plus I’m not ready for them to give it up) so, that would mean they only need 9-12 hours of sleep at night. They get just that by going to bed at 9:30 without being overly tired.

Dad holding daughter above his head while sitting in a chair.
Late bedtimes mean more time with Dad.

We didn't choose late bedtimes. Late bedtimes chose us.  

For us, starting this type of schedule was completely organic. When I worked outside the home we didn’t get home until 6 or 7pm most days. Then I had to cook dinner. If I made the decision to put them to bed at 7:30 they would have been getting absolutely no mommy time. (This was part of the reason I left work.) However, once I left work dinner time was placed at 6 pm to ensure Dad was home for dinner. At the absolute earliest Dad doesn’t get off work until 5. That’s on his early days. He mostly works nights, which means he won’t be home before midnight on average. So, the few nights a week we can have the whole family together for dinner are important for my family. But its also important for me to maintain a consistent routine with the girls. There is no need to move dinner around to different times based on Dads schedule. Dads schedule changes from week to week. That would be completely unfair to the children. There are times I push it back if for example I know he’ll be home at 7. Then dinner is at 7 and the kids would have an extra snack at 5. But for the most part we keep it the same rather he’s there or not.

Husband sitting on floor below wife in chair.
"I need my Dad time too." 

We get quality time

 I need my dad time too. Like I said Dad doesn’t come home until midnight much of the week. Some days he’s out from 9:30 am until 12:30 am. With a rolling schedule he could have to work two of these shifts in a row; switching from morning to night shift, then working a night to switch to a morning shift. We live with uncertainty in Dad’s schedule as he also has no set days off. Just like the girls need their time so do I. This means that I stay up often until 2 or 3 in the morning to get some quality time with him. Having the children wake up at 6 in the morning would in no way leave me prepared for a day with them. I’d be left cranky and probably short patient with the girls which again would not be fair to them. By allowing myself to stay up later, we have been able to stay connected despite his crazy work schedule.

Dad needs rest 

With Dad’s changing schedule he’s rarely able to get a full night’s rest. If, for example, on Monday and Tuesday Dad worked from 10 am to 11pm and now has to work Wednesday from 10 am to 5 pm, I think it’s safe to say, he exhausted. It would be a whole lot worse for him if the children were waking him each morning at 7 am. We live in a one level apartment there is no way he’d be getting proper rest. (although he did somehow sleep so peacefully throughout my youngest’s newborn stage.)

We have way more time for family and friends. 

We get more time with friends and family

On Dad’s off days we try to spend as much time with our families as possible. This often has us out of the house pretty late at night visiting family and friends. A lot of parents talk about missing being able to spend time with friends because they are rushing home for bedtimes. Well, my children don’t give me that problem. They are able to handle themselves later into the evening. I don’t have to worry about rushing home at 6:30 to avoid a meltdown or tantrum.

It works for us. Our kids sleep peacefully at night. 

It works for us 

With all this in mind I just see no reason for my children to go to bed before 9. As a stay-at-home mom I am in no rush to be up and out the door in the morning. I have no job I need to run off to. The children have no daycare or school drop off times to meet. I like to take my mornings slow. In order for this to happen I need my children to value the time they wake in the morning. They wake up between 8:45 and 9 every morning. But the 3-year-old knows she’s to stay in her room until I get her at 9:15. When she wakes she plays quietly in her room until I come. She may read a book by herself or to her sister. She knows her sister can’t come out of her crib, so she gives her books and toys. Many times, I wake to them laughing and being silly. This extra time I get to lay in bed gives me the boost I need to start my day.

Bottom Line 

My children may have what most would consider a “late” bed time, but they receive good quality sleep. And they sleep for the recommended 11-14 hours each day, between their 2-hour nap and bedtime. Set the tone and be consistent and any bed time will work as long as it’s enough hours. Consider your family’s needs and schedules, a later bed time may be needed.

What time do your children go to bed? Is it working for your family? Would you ever consider a later bedtime? Let me know in the comments below.

happy family walking down the road.
This was the best decision ever for my family.