Toddler bedtime creeping later and later

Hello :) My daughter (2 years 8 months) has been having an increasingly difficult time falling asleep at bedtime. I'm finding she either drags her feet through the routine or stays up talking to her stuffed animals for... sometimes an hour after I leave the room, or both. She is often not falling asleep til 8:30 or 9 and reliably wakes up around 6. She still naps most days for at least 2 hours and occasionally is wiped enough to have a mega nap. 

We have had very good sleep routines since she was 2 months old. It has of course been bumpy at times but for the most part she's been down for the night by 7 or 7:30. I thought maybe she just needed to go to sleep a little later but 9 feels extreme. 

Any ideas what's going on? I'm worried she is not getting enough sleep and also worried she might not be tired when I put her down and that is increasing her normal no-type behavior unnecessarily. 

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From my experience and from what I've seen with other families, this is super common around this age. You may also start to get some 'nap strikes' although that doesn't seem to be an issue now. I would suggest you try to limit the nap to 90 minutes/ensure it's early enough. What time do you start the bedtime routine? If she's still super tired you could also try starting it earlier. Although it seems counter-intuitive, sleep does beget sleep!

Our daughter went through the same thing so we started to stop giving her naps. We had her preschool take her downtime/rest in an open area with the lights to discourage napping. If she was super tired and fell asleep they would wake her up after 45min-1hr. Her bedtime was aound 730 as well and she would wake up at 630/7 the next morning. Gradually as she got older her bedtime moved to 8/830. 

I appreciate your post because we are going through a sleep regression at around the same age (2 yrs 10 mo). I do think it’s age-appropriate for them to be sleeping less— I think I read 11-13 hours total is typical at this age. Sometimes my daughter will just sing or talk in her crib during nap time. As long as she’s not upset, I feel fine with just leaving her. Lately, she has been telling me that “bed is boring” and getting upset about bed and nap time.... that’s a different problem! Have you considered waking her up from naps? I know a mom who won’t let her 2yo nap longer than 90 min. Something to try perhaps?? Good luck to us all :)

She likely needs to drop the nap or at least shorten in... I wouldn't let her take a mega nap and maybe try to keep the nap to 60-90 minutes max. If that doesn't help, I would drop the nap and just do some quiet time. Bed time should move back earlier then :)  She may be cranky in the late afternoon for a few weeks while she adjusts. 

This is really common at this age. As kids approach age 3 their overall sleep needs drop, but many are still napping, so that pushes the bedtime later. If you want, you could try shortening her nap and that will probably result in her falling asleep earlier. Or you can stick with your current routine. As long as she doesn’t seem overtired generally she is probably getting enough sleep. Eventually when she drops her nap entirely her bedtime will move earlier again, possibly even earlier than it’s ever been since she had a one nap schedule. My six year old hasn’t napped in two years and could probably fall asleep by 7pm most nights, she’s so tired. Good luck!

There's nothing intrinsically wrong with a 9pm bedtime!  Is she getting enough sleep overall? (If she wakes naturally at 6am with plenty of energy, then yes she is.)   Does her natural sleep rhythm and timing (both night and naps) fit okay with your family's schedule for work/school/etc.?  If the answer to both of those questions is yes, there's no need for you to do anything to try to get her to sleep earlier at night.

However, if there are family/household-routine reasons that you need her to shift her bedtime earlier, chances are you need her to nap less, or earlier.  The nap transitions can be tough -- when my kids went through dropping a daily nap, as toddlers, it was always difficult to decide on a daily basis whether to encourage a nap and deal with a long, late bedtime routine, or discourage a nap and deal with overtired behavior in the evening but have an easy, early bedtime!  But there was indeed an obvious correlation and those were the available options for several weeks until we settled into a new no-nap routine.

NO solutions for you, but I am in the same boat. My daughter is two years and five months and has almost the same exact schedule. I have considered cutting out or shortening naps, but I think she’s too young for that still. And, honestly, I don’t want to give up her naptime when I am home with her! I am accepting the situation right now, because, like it sounds for your toddler, mine is getting into her crib at a reasonable hour. And so the opportunity to sleep is available. When she is up until nine, it is because she is singing and playing. So I figure, if she’s not miserable, I’ll let it be for now. And she wakes up happy, so I figure she’s getting enough sleep.

I remember when my son was 2.5 he started shrieking and screaming when I put him down for naps and bedtime. He would fuss and refuse to sleep. I thought maybe he was ready to drop his nap but everyone told me (rightly) it was too early to do it and not to give up. He was too old to "cry it out" (it really doesn't work once they start to talk to you), and all the books in the world didn't tell me what to do. My husband took to putting him down for bedtimes (he seemed to cry less), and during naps I would just sit there and stare at him (without picking up) till he fell asleep one way or another. The long and the short is, it was a developmental phase, and he outgrew it. He started napping again and sleeping regularly and we were lucky that he slept nicely till he was 3.5 when he really did outgrow his nap and dropped it. Your child could be fighting reasons for a hundred reasons:She is learning to talk, to think, to do things, the world is too exciting, her brain is developing, new synapses are forming. No matter what you do, DON'T GIVE UP THE NAP. As for bedtime, start putting her down around the time she actually does fall asleep, so she doesn't get used to lying awake in her bed. Once she starts actually sleeping soon after she is put down, then start bumping that bedtime 15 min earlier every few days till she falling asleep soon after she is put down, but at an earlier hour. Good luck! This too shall pass.

this sounds normal to me. I'm a pediatrician and I find most kids between 2.5 and 3.5 years who are still napping either go to bed later or wake earlier. most 2.5-3 year olds do well on 11-12 hours of sleep total in 24 hours. So unless she seems super tired and cranky during the day, I would let her have the chats with her stuffies or put her to bed later and not worry about it. :)

This happened with both of my kids at around this age. As they get older, they need less sleep than when they were infants, and if they are still napping during the day, either their bedtime will creep later or (the worst!) they will start waking up in the middle of the night again. What you are experiencing is basically the precursor to dropping the nap. If you just can't stand the later bedtime, you could try reducing the length of the daytime nap.

The Ferber book goes into some detail about this and about how you can manage it - that book has a reputation as a "cry it out" book, but it also contains a TON of useful information, including about this subject. I highly recommend it.

It sounds like time to scale her nap back to a shorter period, perhaps 45 mins to prioritize the overnight sleep. 

Hello, to me that sounds totally normal and like she is getting plenty of sleep when you factor in the naptime bringing it to 11-12 hours of sleep per day. Does she have a set time she generally wakes from naps? I would suggest taking a look at that time and being sure there is a nice balance of enough time between wake from nap and bedtime. Maybe it is time to switch up the bedtime routine just a little so she is more hands on? Or dim lights and soft music and other sleepy time cues a good amount of time before bed? With my daugther I used to sometimes have a little led candle in the bathroom for brushing teeth and had to keep things very calm to prevent her from getting worked up. I'm also wondering if she is loving the explosion of language she now knows, super sweet that she is up talking to her animals. I was also wondering if she will put herself to bed (after talking to the animals) or if she requires you to come back in.

I know how hard it is to lose that earlier bedtime but she sounds rested and it sounds like you are consistent with bedtime, etc.

She’s ready to drop the nap. I known it’s hard to for you to give up, but once she makes the transition, she will settle into an 11-12 hour nighttime sleep. 

Our now-3 son went through something similar, and we found that not letting him sleep past a certain hour in the afternoon was key (i.e. 4pm). I wasn't sure from your post if your daughter was napping once or twice, but it seems by that age, kids are down to one afternoon nap, around 12-2 or 1-3, so you may just want to nudge towards that if you haven't already. One thing other posters didn't mention is tiring out your daughter more. I found that taking my son to the park (not possible right now of course) and running him around resulted in earlier bedtimes (before 8:30). It's amazing how if my kids' energies aren't depleted, they can really hold out. Now that they are cooped up a lot, they do actually have later bedtimes (falling asleep at 8:30 or 9, and they are both toddlers). I've even thought of getting an indoor trampoline to see if they can get more physical activity...