3 Year Old Sleep Schedule: The Complete Guide

Author Image By Paula McLaren - Norland Nurse NNEB RSH •  Updated: 03/02/23 •  Sleep / Sleep Schedules

Healthy sleep patterns start with a schedule. Here’s how to get your little one onto a regular 3 year old sleep schedule with top tricks to make maintaining it as easy as possible.

How Much Sleep Does A 3 Year Old Need?

Sample 3 Year Old Sleep Schedule

By 3 years old, your little one will easily be sleeping through the night and will have transitioned down to 1 nap or 1 period of quiet time in the early afternoonon.

Here is a sample 3 year old sleep schedule to give you a guideline for how your little one’s day can flow:

Sleep Schedule For 3 Year Old

REMEMBER: This 3 year old sleep schedule is only a guideline and will differ from child to child. The most important thing to focus on is how much sleep your child is getting in 24 hours.

Nap Schedule For 3 Year Old 

At 3 years old, your child may not always need a nap but may have to take one on very busy days.

To help you schedule a day for your 3 year old, here are two handy quick references for a 3 year old nap schedule regardless of whether they have a daytime nap or not.

3 Year Old Sleep Schedule With No Naps

Many 3 year olds may have transitioned away from a daytime nap but I would still highly recommend a period of quiet time to allow your little one a chance to recharge their batteries.

No Nap Schedule For 3 Year Old

3 Year Old Sleep Schedule With 1 Nap

Some 3 year olds will still need a nap after lunch to get through the day and others may alternate between napping and having a quiet time.

1 Nap Schedule For 3 Year Old

How Long Can A 3 Year Old Go Without Sleep?

Most 3 year olds can happily go 11-12 hours without sleeping. However, some will only manage 6-8 hours before needing a short nap.

Bedtime For 3 Year Olds

As always, a regular and healthy bedtime routine is essential to your child’s good night’s sleep as they are proven to improve sleep and reduce nighttime wakings. And for a 3 year old sleep schedule, your little one’s bedtime routine will consist of:

The entire bedtime routine should start between 6pm and 6.30pm and ideally, take no longer than 45 minutes.

REMEMBER: The bedtime routine should follow the same steps and be repeated at the same time every evening to ensure your 3 year old can recognise the signs that bedtime is coming to help them settle and fall asleep more easily. You can use a bedtime routine chart to help your little one know what’s coming up too!

What Time Should A 3 Year Old Go To Bed?

For a 3 year old sleep schedule, your little one should be in bed with the lights out between 7pm and 7.30pm.

If your 3 year old is taking a regular nap each day you may be able to adjust bedtime to be a little later… 

But if no nap is being taken, make sure you get your little one into bed before they become overtired. An overtired 3 year old can be very difficult to settle!

But no matter what… your child should not be in bed any later than 8pm to ensure they get enough sleep to support their brain’s growth and development as well as their physical development.

What Is The Earliest A Toddler Can Go To Bed?

The earliest you should be putting your 3 year old to bed is 6pm. This is to avoid them waking up at a very unsociable hour!

Looking to get your little one to sleep quickly and effortlessly? Check out my Bedtime and Nap Cheat Sheet and master the art of making daytime naps and bedtimes as seamless as possible.

Is There A 3 Year Old Sleep Regression?

Yes and no…

Sleep regressions are possible at any age and can be triggered by all sorts of developmental and environmental occurrences.

Whilst sleep regressions are more common at 4 months, 6 months, between 8 and 10 months, 12 months old and around 18 months old… 

Your 3 year old can still experience a sleep regression especially if they have just started nursery school. All that new activity can disrupt sleep for a while until they settle into their new routine.

So if your 3 year old sleep schedule is disrupted with your child fighting sleep, increased nighttime wakings and restlessness then they are very likely experiencing a short-term sleep regression. 

Read this post to help you navigate this situation: Sleep Regression: What, Why, Signs & Sanity-Saving Solutions.

3 Year Old Sleep Tips

Establishing and maintaining a 3 year old sleep schedule will make your day much easier to manage because after all… Everything starts and ends with sleep!

Here are some of my top sleep tips to make creating and maintaining a 3 year old sleep schedule as simple as possible.

TOP TIP: Time spent quietly in their bedroom is an ideal way to navigate nap transitions. They may sleep, or they may not, but having a quiet period without sleep is better than being constantly busy and essential for both you and your 3 year old.

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Common 3 Year Old Sleep Problems

The most common sleep problems that your toddler may encounter when establishing and maintaining a 3 year old sleep schedule are:

TOP TIP: To help with early morning waking try a toddler alarm clock like this one to help your toddler know when it is time to get up and when they should stay in bed.

Frequently Asked Questions About 3 Year Old Sleep Schedules

Looking for more information about 3 year old sleep schedules? Find answers to the most common questions here.

Are 3 Year Olds Supposed To Nap?

3-year-olds should always have the opportunity to nap by offering them quiet time to help recharge their batteries for the afternoon and promote healthy cognitive function.

However, the truth is… napping and sleep requirements will vary greatly from child to child at this age.

Can You Sleep Train A 3 Year Old?

Yes, you can sleep train a 3 year old. I prefer the Gradual Retreat Method and the “I’ll Be Back” Method.

How Much Nighttime Sleep Is Appropriate For A 3 Year Old?

3 year olds will sleep anywhere between 10-12 hours at night.

Why Is My 3 Year Old Sleeping So Much?

If your 3 year old has just started nursery school or has been unwell, they may need extra sleep for a while as they adjust to their new routine. Some may return to needing a daytime nap for a while.

Is 9pm Too Late For 3 Year Old Bedtime?

Yes, a 9pm bedtime is too late for a 3 year old. I would always aim for a bedtime no later than 8pm for this age group and ideally, it should be 7pm to ensure that they get enough nighttime sleep to prevent any developmental and cognitive problems from developing.

TOP TIP: The occasional late night at the weekend will not do any harm as long as they are able to sleep later the next day or take a daytime nap to catch up on any lost sleep.

How Long After A Nap Can My 3 Year Old Go To Bed?

3 year olds will normally need around 5½ to 6 hours of awake time before they are ready to sleep again. So if your little one had napped from 12.30-1.30pm they should be ready for bed by 7-7.30pm.

Sleep Schedules Further Reading

Here are some more sleep schedules to help you get the most out of helping your little one sleep as best they can.

After all…

Sleep breeds sleep!

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Author Image Bio
Paula McLaren is the founder of Teething to Tantrums and a highly qualified childcare expert with over 40 years of experience as a Norland Nanny. She holds a BA (Hons) in Early Years Development & Learning (0-6 Years) and the prestigious Norland Diploma. Paula has worked as a night nanny, run a successful daycare center in London, and helped raise countless children using her tried and tested developmental and guidance methods.

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