Are you looking for a 4 year old sleep schedule for your big kid? Let me help you set up your days and nights for sleep success!

4 year old sitting on a rock and giggling

Having a 4 year old in the house is a wild ride! I will forever look back on that time with our daughter as a fun, hilarious, and challenging stage that I would like very much to never repeat.

On the one hand, it was so amazing to see just exactly who our tiny human was becoming. And the conversations we started having when she was 4 years old have been some of my absolute favorites!

But along with the development of such a fun personality came a growing independence and some real power struggles! She also had one of her worst sleep regressions at this age.

Now that we’re on the other side of things, I know how we could have handled our 4 year old’s sleep schedule differently.

Let me tell you what I learned to help you lock in your 4 year old sleep schedule.

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What Time Should a 4 Year Old Go to Bed?

At 4 years old, an ideal bedtime is between 7 and 8:30 pm.

Your 4 year old isn’t a baby any more, but they still need a lot of sleep! They should be getting between 10-12 hours of sleep over a 24 hour period.

Since your 4 year old probably isn’t napping anymore, they need to get all of their sleep overnight.

Try to establish their bed time for around 12 hours after they typically wake up for the day.

Why is Bedtime so Hard for 4 Year Olds?

If you notice that your 4 year old is having trouble settling in to sleep at bed time, ask yourself these questions to troubleshoot:

Did they get enough physical activity and time outside?

Daylight has a big impact on our circadian rhythms, and movement is so important to tire out our little ones’ growing bodies!

Is their bedtime routine consistent?

Preschoolers thrive on consistency and predictability. Knowing what comes next feels safe and relaxing to them. Try to keep your bedtime routine as consistent as possible so your child knows what to expect.

Does your bedtime routine include time to quietly and calmly connect?

Use a cuddle, lullaby, or bed time story to bond and set a calm tone before bedtime. This creates a sense of security and helps your 4 year old calm their body in preparation for sleep.

Have you avoided electronics and screens before bedtime?

Noisy electronics and blue light from screens can be very stimulating. An overstimulated brain is difficult to settle down for sleep. Make sure to shut down screen time at least 60 minutes before bedtime, or cut them out of the evening routine completely.

Has your 4 year old napped today?

If your 4 year old is still napping, or just taking sporadic naps from day to day, it could have an impact on their ability to fall asleep at night.

What Time Should a 4 Year Old Nap?

Around 4 years old is when most kids stop napping altogether.

Your 4 year old doesn’t really need a nap in order to get in all the sleep they need for the day. By this age, they’re physically able to get all the sleep they need at night time.

If your 3 or 4 year old is consistently experiencing some sleepiness in the middle of the day, or completely melting down by the end of the day, you can keep offering the nap. 

Even if they don’t fall asleep, the worst that can happen is that they end up doing quiet time instead, and that’s still a great midday reset. See our favorite quiet time toys here.

However, if you notice that your napping 4 year old is waking up too early or waking up frequently at night, it may be time to phase out the nap in favor of getting consistent sleep overnight.

4 year old sleep schedule graphic

What is A Good Schedule for a 4 Year Old?

Here’s one example of a 4 year old sleep schedule:

7:00 am — Wake up

7:15 am — Breakfast

9:30 am — Snack 

12:30 pm — Lunch

1:00-2:00 pm — Quiet time

2:30/3:00 pm — Snack

5:30 pm — Dinner

7:00/7:30 pm — Bed time

I realize that your 4 year old’s activity levels will fluctuate on any given day. If they have a particularly exhausting day and they fall asleep during their quiet time, that’s okay.

For those days when your 4 year old takes an impromptu nap, you can always push bedtime back by 30-60 minutes. That should help them build enough sleep pressure to hopefully stay asleep through the night.

Some families are lucky enough to leave midnight wake-ups in the dust as their little ones move into toddlerhood. However, it’s completely common and normal for even the best sleepers to have a sleep setback at this age.

Is There a Sleep Regression at 4 Years Old?

We definitely experienced a 4 year old sleep regression, and it was a doozy!

We struggled on how to keep our toddler in bed for a time.

I thought we had left sleep struggles in the dust, so this sleep regression was extra hard. But it turns out there are plenty of reasons why your 4 year old could be having sleep problems.

There aren’t necessarily any physical developments that cause this sleep shake-up, but there may have been changes in your 4 year old’s environment. The way that they are perceiving their world is also changing.

Started Preschool

For example, your 4 year old may have recently started attending a preschool program in anticipation of starting kindergarten soon. They’re learning all sorts of new things and meeting new people, which is so enriching and also stimulating to their growing brains.

More Independent

Your 4 year old could also be feeling less like a “baby,” which means they crave more independence. The way you’re interacting with them is changing, too! You’re giving them more freedom to make their own choices, and they’ve grown to enjoy the self-agency.

New Sibling

There could even be a newer younger sibling getting some extra attention at home that’s throwing off your older kiddo’s reliable routine.

Pushing Boundaries is their Full-Time Job

Whatever the changes may or may not be, kids at this age love to push boundaries. That includes testing the expectations you’ve set up around bed time.

How to Handle the 4 Year Old Sleep Regression

If your 4 year old is experiencing a sleep regression, first address whether they are still napping. Kids sleep best at night when they build up enough sleep pressure during the day.

Wake-ups in the middle of the night at this age can be caused by not having enough sleep pressure. If they’re experiencing a 4 year sleep regression, try turning nap time into quiet time and see if that improves things.

If you’re noticing a sleep regression even though your 4 year old doesn’t nap anymore, here are some other things you can try:

Be consistent in your bedtime routine.

Toddlers follow directions best when they know what to expect. Make sure you don’t change things up every night, and instead keep things as consistent as possible.

Set expectations and stick to them.

Talk with your 4 year old during the day to lay the ground rules and set expectations for how things will go at bedtime. The beauty of having an older toddler is you can talk about things with them.

Kids understand things so much better at this age. That means you can verbally prepare them earlier in the day for what to expect at bed time.

Make your 4 year old’s room a place they want to stay and sleep.

Be sure their room is set up in a way that is conducive to sleep and staying in their room. Make sure they have a water bottle and favorite loveys within reach, so they don’t feel the need to get out of bed to get these things.

This is also a big age for fear of the dark to set in. Use things like night lights or an okay-to-wake clock to provide some light and a visual cue for when it’s time to wake up.

I recommend that families with toddlers use something like The Hatch Rest or Rest Plus, or Little Hippo Mella to show your little one when to be in bed and when to wake up.

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The Big Bed Blues course walks you through the process of getting your child to sleep in their own bed for 10–12 hours every night. End the power struggles and sleepless nights once and for all with the Big Bed Blues Course.

Frequently Asked Questions about The 4 Year Old Sleep Schedule

What is the Normal Sleep Pattern for a 4 Year Old?

Your 4 year old needs about 10-12 hours of sleep in a 24 hour period. This is typically all taken overnight, without any naps.

Is 10 Hours of Sleep Enough for a 4 Year Old?

It might be! If your 4 year old is sleeping 10 hours straight at night and doing well throughout the day, then it could be enough sleep for them.

Why is Bedtime so Hard for 4 Year Olds?

Four is a tough age! Your 4 year old is learning to push boundaries and see what they can get away with.

To reduce bedtime tantrums and struggles, focus on:

  • A consistent bedtime routine
  • Limiting screen time before bed
  • Using visual routines and aids such as an okay to wake clock

If you have questions about the 4 year old sleep schedule, leave them in the comments and we’ll help you troubleshoot.

Amy Motroni

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