Why Our Two Year Old Goes to Bed “Late”

what time should a two-year-old go to bed?

Well, who’s to say? What time should a two-year-old go to bed at night? What time should ANYONE go to bed?! A much more realistic question is how much sleep does a 2-year-old need? Answer THAT, and figure out what kind of toddler bedtime works for your family – and then make sure your two-year-old is getting enough sleep.

If you’re struggling with a 2 year old not going to sleep until 11pm, what REALLY matters is what time that two year old has to get up! I’ll explain below, and offer some ideas as to how to approach the “problem” when your toddler stays up late.

when should a toddler go to bed


I’ll tell you what works for our family when it comes to a good bedtime for a toddler, and we will talk about how much sleep a toddler needs

…and then you can figure out what works for YOUR family. It is ok for you to do what’s best for your family, and not bother to worry about what everyone else thinks you should do.

Our toddler goes to bed between 9:30 and 10 pm.

I KNOW! You’re shocked!! It’s shocking!

But why?

Why is that a “bad” bedtime for our 2-year-old if that’s what works for us? Not everyone functions on the same schedule.

Here’s the reasons (and they are legit) why our toddler goes to bed at 10 pm (and why we are 100% ok with it):

The first reason we are ok with a late bedtime for our two-year-old is the one that matters most to me personally (LOL):

It keeps mommy sane

I have (and always have had) really bad insomnia. I choose to breastfeed (we now have a 6-month-old as well), which means I can’t take sleep aids. Not to mention, even if you’re not breastfeeding, it’s hard to wake up and wander around the house taking care of kids – regardless of breastfeeding – if you’ve got chemical sleep aids in your system.

This means that on a good night I’m lucky if I fall asleep around 2 am – and then I’m woken by a breastfeeding baby 4 times before 8 am. If my kids were asleep by 6:30 or even 7:30 pm, they’d be up at 6:30 or 7:30 AM, (or earlier) because a toddler needs to sleep around 12 hours night, (plus a two hour nap according to webmd.com and all the other child sleep experts out there. This is widely accepted).

For me, a 2-year-old waking up too early (any time before 8:30 or 9 am) feels like the end of the world. Often by 6:30 am, I have only had a couple hours of sleep. I’m not capable of being a good mom when my toddler wakes up that early. BUT, it is wildly unrealistic to think that he will sleep past 7:30 am if he is in bed by 7:30 pm.

When my toddler is in bed by 9:30 pm, he sleeps til about 9 am. I get a few hours of sleep, and we function much more happily. (If mama ain’t happy, nobody’s happy!)

But it’s not all about me!

He gets time with daddy

My husband works long long days – he generally gets home at 7 pm.

We want our kids to know that daddy exists. And that daddy loves them. And that daddy is involved with them.

We eat late, we have our family time late, and then daddy lays down with kiddo number 1 at 9:30 (after bathing him). By allowing our family to have “night owl” tendencies, we also allow our family to have “family” tendencies. I wake daddy up (because he always falls asleep), and then we have an hour or so to ourselves before we hit the sack too.

Sure, there are times when we’d like more “alone” time – but it’s not realistic for us right now.

The benefits of being a sane mom and of dad having time with his kids outweighs the negative of us not having tons of “alone time” right now.

We still have “a life” – and it includes our kids

We were among the last of our friends to have kids… and it was not lost on us that they all had to be home by 6:30 to start bedtime routine.

But life does not end at 6:30 pm.

With a late bedtime for our toddler, we are able to sit around a campfire with friends until 9 and still get the kids to bed “on schedule”. This summer we kept babe up till 11 pm to watch some fireworks – and he hardly noticed because it was only one hour past bedtime. We can actually go out and do things around the holidays, and not deal with frantic screaming children.

It’s great!

Lastly, it was just easier for us – because it seemed natural to him

Maybe it’s hereditary?

With kiddo number one, we could NEVER get him to sleep at a “decent” time when he was a baby. He came into the world and he decided 2 am was bedtime – and that was that.

Baby sleep regressions hardly affected us because he was just always awake. (Yes, it was hard. We lived!)

For almost a full year we struggled to get him to sleep before 2 am. We tried ALL THE THINGS. (Except CIO – cry it out. We were not interested in CIO, and we still are not interested in CIO. Eventually, we started co-sleeping, and that really helped.)

Over time, we managed to work his bedtime back to 10 pm. When he was one year old we had him down by midnight, and slowly, over the last year, we’ve got it back to 10 pm. We tried to move it forward even further, (because we felt pressure from all the weird looks we get when we go out with our kids past 7 pm…) but we found that when he was in bed consistently by 8:30 am, he started waking up by 7 am.

And, as we talked about – that just doesn’t work for us. His little body seems wired to wake up around 11 hours after he goes to sleep… which is TOTALLY NORMAL for a kid this age.

Note that if your kid has a “set wake up time” in his brain of 7 am and wakes up at 7 am no matter what time you put him down, you might HAVE to put baby to bed by 7:30 so that he CAN get enough sleep… because:

is it “bad” for toddlers to stay up late?

Judith Owens, M.D., director of the Pediatric Sleep Disorders Clinic at Hasbro Children’s Hospital, in Providence claims there is “nothing intrinsically harmful about letting kids stay up late, provided — and this is the crucial part — that they go to bed about the same time every night and get enough sleep overall” (source).

That means if your toddler goes to bed late but wakes up early no matter what, they are probably not getting enough sleep – and sleep deprivation is real, and it’s unhealthy.

It also makes for angry, grouchy kids.

If your toddler won’t fall asleep before 10 pm but then sleeps till 9 am, you DO NOT HAVE A PROBLEM.

If your toddler stays up late but also wakes up early you DO have a problem.

It would be a good idea to work on bed time. Working on bed time might mean:

  • Experimenting with an earlier bed time (young kids struggle to fall asleep if they are over-tired)
  • Removing sugar from their diets in the evening
  • Laying with your toddler until they fall asleep (we STILL do this at 3 + 5 years old, and it’s a NORMAL thing to do to help kids go to sleep)
  • Listening to audio books in bed, as a calming way to get a toddler to be INTERESTED in bed time
  • Talking with your doctors about trying melatonin supplements (these are widely available in the USA + Canada, and approved for children, but talking to a dr is always wise before starting any supplement)

It’s ok to do what works for your family when it comes to how and when your kids go to sleep

If you NEED to get your kiddo to bed earlier, you could try sleep training without crying it out. 

But as long as your two-year-old is getting ENOUGH sleep – at least 10 hours at night and 2-3 hours in the day (naps are important!) then it’s up to you to decide if you are ok with a late bedtime for your toddler. If you’re ok with it, and it works for your family… it’s ok. 

If you have a toddler you might like:

How to get your toddler to eat veggies 
How to feed your toddler without a fight
Fun books to read to toddlers
Toddler activities (to keep mommy sane) 

what time should a two year old go to bed

Toddler sleep - Struggling with a late bed time for your toddler? Maybe you can work WITH that and it won't be such a problem? If you put your toddler to bed early and it's just a battle, try this!

33 thoughts on “Why Our Two Year Old Goes to Bed “Late””

  1. Thank you for this post! I’ve always gotten a lot of grief for my toddler staying up later than his cousins, but the thought of trying a 7:00 pm bedtime like them is simply exhausting. If my two-year-old falls asleep before 8, he’ll wake up a couple hours later and stay up all night because he thought it was a nap, or he’ll fight going to sleep until 11 anyway, so what was the point? We chose this for exactly all the reasons you listed. I often avoid talking about it but it’s nice to know I’m not a bad mom and I’m not alone.

    • I hate that there is so much pressure from “everyone else” about ow we should raise out kids… You know what works for you!!

  2. Hey, I totally agree with everything you wrote! Our bedtime is earlier now for our 2 and 4 year old but only because they are waking up earlier. We just had our 3rd baby and I’ve co slept with all of them and now my husband sleeps with the 2 while I’m with the baby 🙂 I bought a crib this time around because I thought maybe I should try something different … I knew on the first night home that crib would be holding laundry and that’s it 😂
    Thank you for your post!

    • SO funny, my husband sleeps with kiddo number one and I co sleep with kiddo number 2…. and I have more baby beds holding laundry than I do laundry baskets. (Five. I have purchased 5 baby beds over the last couple of years. I’m giving up the idea for good! LOL).

  3. Love this! We have all the same reasons for an early bedtime. It’s so funny! We mainly do it because it works well for us, not because we think it’s the best way to parent. I’m an early riser so if I put the kids to bed too late, I get zero alone time. I need at least 2 hours by myself before I head to bed!

    It’s awesome that you remind us readers to do what works for us as a parent instead of thinking about what others think!

    • Yes, that makes sense! I think it would be VERY different if I was an early riser…I sort of WISH I was! There are definitely days where I wish I had a couple hours before bed to myself. I miss baths the most LOL.

  4. We had (and still have) late bed times for our two girls. It’s what worked best for us, especially me the mommy who is with them all day. So I make it work or me, regardless of what other’s may think my kids’ sleep time should be! Thanks for a great post:)

  5. I thought I was the only parent who believed in everything you wrote here! My husband says we are the “cool parents” for staying up late with our toddlers while everyone else ends the fun too soon😄 He comes home late as well and my mornings are what I mostly count on to get stuff done so I NEED them to sleep at least u til 8am! Thanks for putting this out there. It’s different and it is awesome, now i’m inspired to make a post on this as well! Especially as a prego Mama with 2 under 2. Aka future Mama of 3 under 3. Wish me luck!😂👌

    • Elena,
      LOL yes – I suppose we ARE cool parents. 😉 We all just do the best that we can, right!

  6. Thank you for writing this! As another insomnia sufferer and natural night owl, this is totally the schedule we are attuned to as well. It has taken me a long time to not feel guilty for something I largely can’t help.

    • Cameron,
      Yes well I think we ALL do the best we can. There is no such thing as just one right way to do things, so don’t feel guilty for doing what’s best for your family <3

  7. I am so glad I am not the only one with kids who go to bed late, I can totally relate to you. When my daughter was about 9 months she would go to bed at 10:30pm and wake up at 10 am and I loved it. It gave me a chance to sleep in and honestly I loved spending time with her at night . So I’m glad I am not alone

    • Yes, we all work on the schedule that works for us! It’s more important to have quality time spent together – regardless of what that looks like!

  8. My first daughter slept late as well 10-11pm. Most because she didn’t drain her energy out. So we finally completed our backyard and now she can play all day with grandma in the yard. When I get home from work she’s ready to eat dinner & sleep. It made a HUGE difference in her sleep time now its 9-9:30pm she is knocked out. I felt horrible hearing others telling me how bad it is for her to sleep late but I still make sure she gets enough sleep. Being a parent is not easy especially juggling kids so close in age. Thanks for creating this post.

    • Your little one getting enough sleep is more important than the time of day it happens! I am glad you found this post useful – hang in there mama!

      • I’ve learned not to care what others think. Every child is different. Mine didnt sleep at all the first year hed wake up every 2 hrs the first yr. And now at 2 he goes to bed between 9 and 10pm bc we are night shifters I think hed programmed to be up late but yet he gets up early too 630-8am depends. He takes 2 hr nap during the day. I’m fine w it as long as he doesn’t show signs of grumpiness

  9. Carly! I so appreciated this post. While for different reasons, our daughter also stayed up late until she started kindergarten this year. It worked for our family and why change what absolutely works?

    You’re such an awesome mama. I love everything about you (that I know of without meeting IRL 🙂

    • Shannon,
      It’s so important for every family to do what works for them – regardless of what that is. And thank you for the kind words! I truly do appreciate it. 🙂

  10. I think this post was really needed. I have a niece the same age as my toddler who goes to bed at 8 pm, sleeps until 8 am, and takes several naps through the day. I sometimes feel bad that my daughter isn’t that scheduled or “perfect”, but the truth is, she just doesn’t need that much sleep. She rarely sleeps longer than 10 hours a night, and we’re night owls too. I put her to bed around 10 pm so she will sleep until 8 am, which is when I’m ready to wake up. Nothing wrong with it! 🙂

    • Natalie,
      I agree! All kids have different needs, and sleep guidelines are just that – guidelines. As mothers, we know better than anyone else what our kids need! Good luck with everything!

      • Hello Carly! I could not believe my eyes when i read this article cuz thats exactly what i am going through and when i see this i am not talking about my sons schedule, but also my chronic insomnia issues that i ve been battling for half of my life. I did feel guilty for quite some time for putting my son to sleep at 10.30pm, however that was somehow natural for him. He has always been a terrible sleeper, this combined with BF for 19 month and my Sleep issues got me in the most difficult time of my life. Falling asleep at 2am and sleeping by 8am is a blessing which rarely happens, my son still has nights when he will wake up and stat wake for 2 hours. Raising a child with chronic insomnia has HUGE impact o your life, on so many levels. Bottom line, it has truly helped me putting him to sleep later rather than 7pm, like the rest of the world. And i will tell you what ladies, dont feel guilty, this does not affect them in any way as long as they sleep 10 h per night and this is not by personal opinion, its my doctor’s opinion, a great sleep consultant from University college London hospital. I am going for therapy at this hospital and i had a conversation about this aspect with my consultant. If a specialist at a world renowned hospital says it is ok, who are WE to think otherwise….

      • Oh I hear you!! It’s definitely the main reason our kids go to bed late – it makes it POSSIBLE for me to function!

  11. We’re exactly the same here. My 3 year old has been going to bed at 930pm for a very long time, and for a very long time I got sick of justifying it to people. It works for us as daddy also gets home late and it works for our lifestyle especially when travelling. We’re not limited to an early bedtime and my son can do things at night. I’m definitely on the side of do what works for your family and everyone needs different amounts of sleep. Kids are no different.

  12. If you’ve followed some good rules first, late hour sometime may not be that bad after all. If you really weary your baby it may sleep longer than usual. Isn’t it what we all fight for?
    But seriously, I am a night owl, officially, and I see no point in lying my baby at 6pm. We start our routine at 8-8.30 (yes, routine is crutial – ask Susan Ubran), never sooner. But we have our routine, we use white noise machine…. In fact, I thing Susan’s HWL sleep training method is great, cause it shows you direction but doesn’t force to anything. Thanks Susan!

  13. Hi there my toddler is also a night owl! What do you do when school starts at 9?? It’s almost 10pm and my three year old still not asleep!!!!! We then need to wake him up at 7:30 and by 1pm when he gets home he needs to nap. I’ve tried no nap but then he can’t eat a decent dinner because he’s so tired

    • ooo that’s hard – I plan to homeschool, tbh! I’m sorry!

  14. THANK YOU! Everything that I’ve seen about toddler schedules shows a 7:00 bedtime, and my family is like you, we have a dad that works late some nights and I’m lucky if I get home by 6 being a teacher. Late bedtimes work for us as well (especially on days when daddy has to watch her – he’s not a morning person). Thank you for helping me realize I’m not a bad mom because my two year old goes to bed later than “the norm.”

  15. I know this was posted a bit ago but I just found this article. It made me feel so much better. I kept thinking it is what it is. He sleeps that all that matters. I always said since he was born he is a 10 o’clock baby. He has always been a great sleeper and is out by 10pm he sleeps till 8- 8-30 and naps at 2 pm till 3:30. If he wakes any sooner than that he is a crying mess. until 3:30 4 it’s clock work.
    Thank you very much for this article. Appreciate it. Have a wonderful day.

  16. My girlfriend lets her 2 year old stay up until 3-4 am..we’re both night owls but this is even late for me, which also means we get 0 time alone. I try my best to never comment on her parenting, but do any moms out there back me up with telling her something has to change ? We just moved in together, and I’m afraid this is going to eventually cause us to break up.

  17. This is very Interesting so thanks for sharing. I think culture also plays a part. In the UK schools finish at 3, kids have dinner at 4/4.30 then in bed for 7. However I live in Spain, my husband is Spanish and everything is later! My toddler goes to bed at 8.30/9, even later in the summer (11pm most nights, naps and eating all shift along) and he gets enough sleep. It works for us and everyone is happy and healthy.

  18. wow recently our 2.5 yr old started doing 2-:3:30 naps. 9 bedtime but up little after 6am. now he has ezcema we keep controlled and hes still teething and im going nuts trying to force a nap before 1 and bed by 8. why cause anything else seems normal…. im reminded normal is what we make it right would i rather be crazy and yelling at him to sleep or as a full time working mother do i want to play and read and be happy… your post made me think second chose is better. is what it is can hog tie a kid to nap… lol glad i saw this post and read it now as little guy naps on couch

  19. My kids go to sleep when the sun sleeps winter is about 6:30 and summer it’s 9 or 10.

    Sometimes they sleep in, sometimes they nap more, mostly we just go with the flow.


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