What is the best bedtime for my child?

A lot of parents ask, “What is the best bedtime for my baby or child?”. Although this is an understandable question, it is important to know that there is not just one answer. As with many topics, there are nuances to consider and there is no one right way. Instead of talking about the ‘best’ bedtime, we prefer to talk about the ‘ideal’ bedtime. The ideal bedtime for your baby or child depends on various factors, such as your child’s daytime routine, age and biological clock.

Daytime routine

Daytime routine is an important factor in the ideal bedtime for your baby or child. Your child’s average number of sleeping hours during the daytime and average awake time are sub-factors that play a role in this.

  • Ideally, awake time is the maximum amount of time a baby can be awake until he or she is ready to sleep again. A newborn has a shorter awake time than an eight-month-old. Although every baby has a slightly different awake time, we see that the average awake times work best for most babies.
  • Daytime sleeping hours means the number of hours of sleep a baby needs during the daytime. This is based on age. In other words, a younger baby needs more sleep during the daytime than an older baby.

Having said that, a baby’s daytime routine, especially wake-up and nap times, plays an important role in your child’s ideal bedtime, which depends on the time your baby wakes up after his or her last nap and, consequently, his or her awake time.

Discover and stimulate your baby's mental development

Download now

Ideal bedtime per age

Age is also a factor in the ideal bedtime. After all, the younger your child is, the more hours of sleep during the daytime he or she needs and the longer he or she can stay awake. Some babies transition naturally to less daytime sleep, while others need more help from their parents. Many young babies tire easily, so an early bedtime of 6 pm can be the ideal time to go to bed for the night.

During the first few weeks after birth, a baby’s biological clock is still not fully developed. So, in these first few weeks, there is no ideal bedtime because your child’s biological clock needs to get into a rhythm. At this age, bedtime can be anywhere from 6 to 11 pm.

Biological clock

As mentioned above, babies are not born with a biological clock. The biological clock (also called circadian rhythm) is our body’s internal clock. It determines when we want to sleep, when we wake up and when we want to eat. The natural hormones melatonin, which regulates the sleep-wake cycle, and cortisol, which helps to keep us awake, flow through our body 24 hours a day, so they influence our biological clock.

Babies do not develop their biological clock until six to eight weeks old. This development ends around the age of four months and melatonin and cortisol flow through the body at different levels throughout the day. This is shown in the image below.

Cortisol levels are highest during the daytime, while melatonin levels start to rise at around six in the evening. This tells us that a bedtime of between 6 and 7 pm from the age of around four months can be an ideal bedtime, provided your child’s daytime routine is appropriate for his or her age.

Written by Myrthe Stapper.
Myrthe Stapper is a certified child sleep consultant. She often writes articles for The Wonder Weeks in which she talks about various topics and aspects of children’s sleep. Her tips are based on scientific data, but she takes a holistic approach.

Did this article help you?

thumb_up_alt thumb_down_alt

Share this article

Receive a notification at the start of a leap!

Would you like to be prepared when your baby is about to enter a leap? Sign up for our leap alarm for free and always receive a notification when a leap is about to start!

What is your due date?(Required)