Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child
How to Move the Bedtime Earlier
April 11, 2022

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A Healthy Child Needs a Healthy Brain, A Healthy Brain Needs Healthy Sleep

If you have not already done so, please read Blog Posts 1 through 5 that describe how sleep is important and beneficial. I will post specific information for parents and children based on my book, “Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child.” Please do not be put off by my book’s length. This is a reference book. Read only the topic of interest to you.

Please read Blog Post 6 which discusses the benefits of extra sleep and highlights the fact that even small amounts of extra sleep make a big difference. Delaying school start times allows middle and high school students more time to sleep in and benefits occur, over time, even when the amount of extra sleep is only 2.4 minutes!

Blog 74How to Move the Bedtime Earlier

New Research

A 2021 study by Professor Lisa Meltzer documented that delaying middle school start times by 40-60 minutes later and delaying high school start times by 70 minutes allowed middle schoolers to have 29 minutes extra sleep and high schoolers 45 minutes extra sleep. These students had significantly less daytime sleepiness! An indication that they were no longer clinically sleep deprived was that “weekend oversleep dropped” dramatically because they were no longer needing to “catch-up” on sleep on weekends.


For pre-school children, even infants, many studies have shown that an early bedtime produces more night sleep (even if the wake-up time is earlier) compared to a late bedtime (even when the wake-up time is later). A late bedtime might be associated with longer naps, but longer naps do not compensate for less night sleep. Further, the early bedtime produces better quality sleep because sleep is occurring more in synchrony with circadian sleep rhythms. Blog Post 7 describes the benefits of early bedtimes and Blog Posts 6869 discuss problems with late bedtimes. So how do you get an early bedtime?

  • 1. Begin soothing and bedtime routines when drowsy signs (Blog Post 9) begin to appear or just start soothing and bedtime routines 10-20 minutes earlier than you customarily do this.


  • 2. Do not allow a late afternoon or early evening nap to occur. Start this on a weekend when both parents are available to help distract and soothe your child through a possible rough patch caused by skipping the nap.


  • 3. Control the wake-up time. Nobody wants to wake a sleeping child. But if your pre-school child is falling asleep late at night and waking up way too late in the morning, then start waking your child in the morning around 7:00am to reset his sleep-wake cycle to be in synchrony with his circadian rhythm.

Any Questions?


  1. Hello Dr. Weissbluth, we have some questions about what time a 16 month old should be going to bed, nap time, wake up time, and overall amount of sleep.

    He is down to one nap, which ranges from 2-3 hours (generally closer to 3 hours), usually starting between 11:15-11:30am. We have said that we must wake him up by 2:30pm if he is not up by himself. First question, is that ok?

    We then put him down at 6:00pm after our night time routine, he falls asleep within 20-55 minutes of being put down. Even when he takes 55 minutes to fall asleep, there is no crying, often just relaxed laying down, or sometimes standing. We have not observed a trend of what causes the 20 minutes versus the longer time to fall asleep. What time should he be going down, and this this a problem?

    Then in the morning, we really are shooting for a 6:00am wake up, but it is frequently around 5:15am. We do go in quietly and check his diaper and then put him back in his crib and don’t go in again until 6:00am, but he does not go back to sleep. For example, this morning he was up at 5:02am, and by 7:30am he was already tired, yawing and rubbing his eyes. Should we be trying a later bed time as it suggests on pg. 656, or should be try for an early bed time as you suggest throughout your book?

    He went to one nap around 13 months because he was not taking a second nap, no matter how long or short his first nap was or what time it started.

    On average he ranges between 13-14 hours of sleep a day, naps and night time sleep combined.

    Any advice is very much appreciated.

    1. Following your own child’s drowsy signs, mood, and behavior is your best guide. Because of variability in nap duration and physical activity during the day, I suggest you vary the bedtime based on subtle drowsy signs for 5-10 nights. Monitor the latency to sleep onset at bedtime and see if it is shorter. Please let me know how it goes.

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