Do Babies Sleep Better with Earlier Bedtime?


Sleep training is the best way to guarantee a good night’s sleep for our babies. We might have our sleep training method perfected, but if we put our babies down at the wrong time, we might find they are still struggling to sleep.

One of the parents’ most common concerns is that putting a baby to sleep too soon will cause them to wake up early. In most cases, the opposite is true. Babies who go to sleep later are more likely to wake up earlier. This can be a result of over-tiredness.

While it may be more convenient to have our babies on the same sleep cycle as we do, getting them to bed sooner is worth the effort.

Recognizing a baby’s cues when tired is essential for the correct bedtime. We’ll show you how and outline what times a baby should be sleeping and how early bedtimes will benefit your child. So, read on to find out how.

An image of a baby girl sleeping in the crib.

Will an Earlier Bedtime Help My Baby Sleep Longer?

Putting our babies to sleep earlier will help them sleep longer. Falling asleep before midnight tends to result in high-quality sleep. This means deeper sleep and less waking up throughout the night. Babies over three months old can sleep for 8 hours or more at night.

When a baby is allowed to stay in a deep sleep undisturbed, they will sleep until they are fully rested.

Taking the time to sleep train babies for an early bedtime will decrease the chances of the baby waking up at night. This means that the baby and parents can enjoy a peaceful slumber and have plenty of energy in the morning.   

One of the benefits of putting a baby to sleep earlier and allowing them to sleep longer is they will wake up fully rested. Our babies will be bright-eyed and happy after a peaceful night’s sleep.

Parents who work late might be sad to miss time with their children before bed, but when they both wake up together, they will be rested and more able to enjoy time together.

Babies require lots of sleep – at the first sign of tiredness, we should put them into bed. This is a great natural cue that the baby is ready for sleep.

They may fuss or need sleep training to learn how to drift off by themselves—allowing our child to stay awake leads to overtiredness. Overtiredness not only makes falling asleep harder but increases the chances of them waking up during the night.

If a baby is sleep trained and we decide to make our baby’s bedtime earlier, we need to make sure that we implement this change gradually.

For example, if we quickly change a baby’s bedtime by three hours, they may think it’s another nap, meaning they will only enter a short sleep cycle.

It’s best to decrease the bedtime by 30 minutes over a few days or weeks until they’re at the desired time.

Would you like to know more about sleep training your baby? I have written this article: How to Sleep Train Your Baby: a Complete and Helpful Guide.

What Is Too Early for Baby’s Bedtime?

If a baby is sleeping through the night, then there isn’t a time that is too early. As a guide, babies should be put down at about 7:00 pm, and infants as late as 9:00 pm. If a baby wakes up after a whole night’s sleep early in the morning, make their bedtime a little later.  

Some behaviors might be a result of a baby’s fundamental bedtime being too early. The essential purpose of sleep training is to create healthy sleep habits for the child that will allow them to get the vital rest they need.

Below are some signs indicating a child needs a later bedtime.

Later Bedtime Sign #1: Long wake periods during the night

If a baby is awake at night for a long time, this might signal that their bedtime is too early. The child might cry, or they may be happy to lie in bed – but being awake for an extended period in the night will harm their sleep.

A cause of nighttime waking can be not getting enough sleep in the day. If the baby hasn’t had enough rest or naps during the day, this can cause them to demonstrate tiredness early, even if they aren’t ready for a whole night’s sleep.

As a result, parents might put their baby to sleep for a more extended period than they need, resulting in a middle-of-the-night activity.

To combat this issue, look at your child’s nap schedule, and ensure they get enough sleep during the day to prevent overtiredness. Of course, they will go to bed later, but they should sleep soundly.

Want to know more about nighttime waking and what to do about it? Read this great article that I have written: Why Does My Baby Wake up 2 Hours After Going to Bed? Real Answers!

Later Bedtime Sign #2: Waking up too early with a lot of energy

A baby’s circadian rhythm will tell them when it’s time to sleep and wake up. If the baby is wide awake in the early morning hours and ready for the day, this is a sign their circadian rhythm is telling them it’s time to start the day.

That can be due to their bedtime being too early. A baby can enjoy a whole night of rest and is ready to start the day but doesn’t understand that 4 or 5 am isn’t a regular waking time for everyone.

It’s great if a baby can sleep through the night, but worth delaying their bedtime so we aren’t waking up before dawn.

It’s simple enough to adjust our baby’s circadian rhythm by adjusting their nighttime lighting to signify when it’s time to sleep and when it’s time to wake.

Exposing the child to brighter light will mean wake time. Once it’s time to sleep, use dimmer lights so that baby can wind down.

Finally, use darkness as a tool to show it’s time to sleep. Investing in black-out curtains might be a good idea to keep the baby’s room dark during long daylight hours. It can take a few nights for the baby to adjust to its new later bedtime.

Later Bedtime Sign #3: Not able to sleep for the same periods

As our babies grow, the amount of sleep they require reduces. This is how we go from babies who nap three times a day to adults who only sleep at night. As our babies grow, we must adjust their bedtime to match their needs.

It’s great to keep to a routine, but if we’re too strict with our babies’ bedtimes when they are not tired, they may fuss a lot or find it hard to sleep.

An excellent way to decide their new bedtime is to track the time the baby falls asleep, which is an excellent indicator of their natural bedtime.

We can adjust our baby’s bedtime gradually until they are put to sleep at a time that matches their internal sleep schedule.

Make sure you read our article: Are 30-Minute Naps Enough for a Baby? The answer will surprise you! It did me, anyway.

An image of a Cute baby sleeping at night in a cradle for babies without a canopy and bumpers.

When Should Babies’ Bedtime Be Earlier?

A baby’s bedtime should be earlier if we notice they are still tired after a night’s sleep or are slow to wake up in the morning. Younger babies can have a later bedtime, but as they grow, this should be earlier, allowing their bodies to sync up with the world around them.

Babies aren’t designed to be awake for long periods. Newborn babies may only be able to stay awake for 45 minutes; as they grow, this time will increase.

Nap time and a good night’s sleep are essential. If we put our babies to sleep late, we might be keeping them awake too long. This can lead to sleep debt or sleep deprivation.

Babies who wake up early but are still tired are signs of sleep debt and may require an early bedtime. Making babies sleep time earlier can help them catch up on the sleep they have lost.

Putting your baby to bed even 30 minutes early for a few days can help. Then, when they are all caught up, they can return to their usual bedtime as long as they get sufficient rest throughout the day.

If a baby is sleep-deprived, we should put them to sleep a couple of hours earlier than their usual bedtime. Then, using the built-up sleep pressure, they should sleep through the night. This is an excellent solution to implement over a few nights to help a baby catch up on rest.

We can implement earlier bedtime temporarily to help a baby catch up if they have missed out on sleep due to illness or change in environment.

If you are finding ongoing issues with your child’s ability to sleep at night or wake up early, this may be a sign they need an earlier bedtime to match their biological clock.

An image of a baby boy sitting in a spacious bed.

Key Takeaways and Next Steps

Babies who have an earlier bedtime tend to sleep better. An earlier bedtime usually avoids overtiredness and matches up better with babies’ circadian rhythms. This will allow our children to sleep longer and hopefully without waking.

It’s essential always to monitor our babies’ sleep and not be afraid to adjust their bedtime, whether earlier or later if it suits the baby better. The main focus is that the baby gets enough rest to develop happily.

Want to know all about sleep training for babies and children? Read these fantastic articles we’ve written for you.

Or feel free to use the search bar (it’s up at the top of the page by the menu) to find what you need. If I don’t have a resource for you yet, use my contact page to email me so I can get your questions answered – and get a resource on this site.

Resources

Learning from your own experience is essential, but learning from others is also wise. These are the sources used in this article and our research to be more informed as homesteaders.

  • Flynn-Evans, Erin, Ph.D. “Early vs. Late Bedtime—Which Is Right? Strategies to Shift Bedtime to Solve Common Sleep Problems.” Babysleepscience, 7 Feb. 2022, www.babysleepscience.com/single-post/2014/04/08/early-vs-late-bedtime-which-is-right-how-to-use-early-and-late-bedtimes-to-solve-common-s.

About Us

I’m Kimberly C. Starr. While working as a Registered Nurse (RN, BSN) in a Pediatric Emergency Department, I had to learn how to help my children sleep better – so I could save lives. Since then, I’ve shared what I’ve learned with other sleep-deprived parents. This is the site where I share everything I’ve learned about sleep training kids.

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