Let's talk about... bedtime! Now, all families and cultures are different. I've worked with families all over the world and have helped them establish bedtime at a time that suits them, but my default preferred bedtime for little ones will always be 7pm.
Here are the three reasons why:
- Melatonin (sleepy hormone) production is at its highest for little ones around 7pm, making it easier for them to fall asleep naturally.
- Babies are naturally early risers and most will wake between 6 and 7am. To get a full 11-12 hours sleep they therefore need to go to bed at 7pm.
- It helps to set a little one's circadian rhythm. It's a scientific fact that if little ones are in a consistent routine, they fall asleep faster and for longer!
So, what has this got to do with the last nap of the day? Babies need enough age-appropriate awake time before each nap or bedtime. It is important that your baby has enough wake time so that they can build enough sleep pressure to drive them to sleep through the night (or at least for a nice long stretch)!
However, it is a fine line because if your baby is kept awake too long before bedtime or they haven’t had adequate daytime sleep, they will become overtired, which can lead to them becoming fussier, more difficult to settle, and more wakeful during the night.
Below is a guide to when the last nap should end for your baby if you are aiming for a 7pm bedtime:
- Four to five months: 5pm
- Six to seven months: 4:30pm
- By eight months: 4pm
- Nine to 12 months: 3:30pm
- 13-17 months: 3pm
Please bear in mind that this is just a guide to what will work for most babies. If your baby doesn’t follow this exactly, do not panic! They will all be slightly different and some babies simply have higher or lower sleep needs.