parenting foundations

Question from a parent in my free Facebook Group (Respectful Parenting):


Searching for tips for tweaking the sleep schedule for 4 kids

Is it as simple as just putting them to bed earlier and waking them up earlier?

Some background: my kids are 2, 4, 6, and 8 years old. Up until they started school, we loved the fact that they weren’t really “early risers,” typically always sleeping in until around 7:30 am. However, this makes getting up for school pretty difficult. They’re often hard to rouse around 7 am.

Bedtime is typically between 8:30 and 9 during the school year (varies by child), but often the two oldest aren’t asleep before 9:30 or 10 some nights. My 6-year old is especially tough to get to sleep. She also has been diagnosed with anxiety disorder and has a lot of anxiety around school, so mornings can be very tough, especially if she hasn’t gotten enough sleep.

School starts at the end of August, but I think it might be time to get the ball rolling on developing a more school-year-compatible sleep schedule for all of them. We’ve gotten very lax over the summer with verrry late bedtimes so we have a lot of work to do!

Any tips? Routine suggestions? Desired wake time is 7 am (maybe a little earlier, like 6:45). What should bedtime be for those ages (8, 6, 4, 2)? 2 year old still naps, he goes down around 1:30 pm due to school schedules and wakes between 3 and 4.


This is the perfect time of year to start creating your family sleep plan to have good sleep each night before school.

Does this mean that the plan is going to work each and every night?? It would work in an ideal world; however, in our real world, there will be some great days and some not-so-great days. Every day is a new day!

So how can this family get started??

The first step is done! 

The first step is to figure out the ideal time to be awake in the morning to get out the door with minimal fuss. 6:45 to 7 am start is best for this family. So I would pick the 7 am start. If 7 am proves to not be enough time once school starts then I would back up morning awake time to 6:45 am.

Step 2 is to figure out how much overnight sleep each child needs.

There are recommendations based on age that does help with giving you a bit of a guide. I will state that not all children fall neatly into the recommendations so you have to find what works best for your child. 

What are the recommendations??

According to a study done by the American Academy of Sleep Medicine in 2016, the following are the recommendations for the amount of total sleep needed in a 24 hour period by age.

4 to 12 Months: 12 to 15 hours*

1 to 3 Years: 11 to 14 hours*

3 to 5 Years: 10 to 13 hours

5 to 12 Years: 9 to 12 hours

12 to 18 Years: 8 to 10 hours

*Includes naps so you subtract nap hours from the total sleep to get the amount of overnight sleep needed.


For this family I would be recommending the following:

2 year old: 2 hour nap with 10 to 10.5 overnight.

4 year old: 12 overnight

6 year old: 10.5 to 11 overnight

8 year old: 10 overnight

*Each recommendation may have to change slightly for each child. These are rough guesses based on the information in the information above.

Step 3 is to plan bedtime based on the hours needed and desired wake time.

2-year-old: 9:00pm Bedtime* if the nap is done by 3. Bedtime works best if it is 6 hours after a nap. If you want early bedtime you will need to reduce nap by 30 minutes which will allow bedtime to be 30 minutes earlier.

4-year-old: 7:00 pm Bedtime* if no nap

6-year-old: 8:00 pm Bedtime*

8-year-old: 9:00 pm Bedtime*

*This is when lights are out and the child is sleeping.

 Step 4 is to plan your evening so the bedtime (lights out and sleeping) is happening when needed. The ideal bedtime routine takes about 20 minutes to 60 minutes depending on your child.

As your child ages, their independence with bedtime increases. With increased independence comes the need for a bit more time for tasks to be completed. 

The older children may benefit from some independent reading before lights out. This is a great way for littles to wind down for sleep without using a screen. There should be no screens for at least 1 hour before bed but 2 hours is best. 


The above is a great plan but with all great plans comes the need to make changes for each family. If you are struggling with your nighttime routine feel free to book a free 15-minute call where we can chat about the ideal bedtime for your child.

If you want more help, you can book a mini consultation or join Parenting Foundations Membership where I answer questions as they come up.