My Toddler Doesn’t Have A Bedtime  


boy standing on head on a bed representing not going to sleep at night

My toddler son doesn’t have a bedtime.  I try to get him to bed at a certain time, but I am not strict about it, and I will tell you why.

First, and foremost it is not worth the fight and stress for either of us. If he is not tired, no matter what I do, he won’t go to bed.  The more I force this, the more stressed he gets and the more agitated I become.  This may not work for everyone, but I have found it is what works for us. At this time in his/our life we have a lot of flexibility in our schedule, so even if he has to wake up early, he can take a nap later on in the day if he is tired—which he will.  

Second, my son has never been a great sleeper. Even when he was an infant he wouldn’t sleep for more than an hour or two at a time. Even to this day, I can count on one hand the number of times he took a nap longer than an hour and a half. For this reason, we just allow him to sleep when he is tired, and to my amazement, now, at the ripe age of almost-three, if I ask if he is tired and wants to nap he will often say “Yeah!” I learned and try to practice the art of allowing him to listen to his body. Of course, I also keep an eye out for cues that he is tired and listen to those as well.

Third, in some countries, kids just stay up later. They sleep in street clothes and do things that our culture does not see as acceptable. When I finally adopted this mentality and let go of the fact that my son just sleeps late, our life got way easier. I finally came to terms that my goal of getting things done at night was a pipedream. I was exhausted and pushing myself through, often waking in the morning in a half stupor state wondering if that email did really go through. So I just started laying down to sleep when my son was ready for bed.  I was able to wake up earlier and get things done early in the AM, while he slept. This worked out better. To my surprise, I found I had way more mental and physical energy to cross things off my to do without distractions.

For some parents, an early bedtime for kids means parents don’t get a lot of time with their child.  For other parents, an early bedtime is a must and their only way to sanity. We all have different schedules and lives, and I think my point here is that just because young kids are up late doesn’t mean we are failing as parents or that our kids won’t turn out okay.  

A lot of pressure is put on us to get our kids to bed early, to have them sleeping through the night at a young age, and granted, for some kids this is possible, but we are not all built and wired the same way.  What is good for one person is not necessarily great for some other person or child. As long as our kids are growing, thriving, and getting the required rest, then maybe it’s not such a big deal that they stay up an hour or two later than most kids their age.    

A preschool teacher once told me a good indicator of a child getting enough sleep is not losing it constantly throughout the day. Granted, kids will have their days—I mean, I do—, but generally if they are having a breakdown for almost every-single-thing, sleep could potentially be the culprit.  Overall, what I learned with my son: routine helps the most. What does sleep times look like in your family?


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Jennifer is Student Midwife who runs Little Ones Welcome, a holistic practice where she integrates Western and Eastern perspectives on Fertility and Pediatric health. She offers services in Acupuncture, Elimination Communication, and Post-Partum Preparedness. Jenn lives in San Francisco with her Husband Oliver, Son Eli, and Dog Franklin. In her spare time, she enjoys spending time outdoors hiking, walking, gardening, or just listening to the ocean waves. Jenn especially loves traveling, enjoying a good meal, and just chillin' with her boys !


  1. Honestly I don’t give my son a bedtime either. He’s doesn’t have to wake up early because he’s not in school and i’m a stay at home mom. He’s only 4 and not in virtual school. It’s easier for our family if I let my son naturally go to sleep on his own. The later he wakes up the better.


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