What is bedtime fading?
Bedtime fading is gradually making your child’s bedtime earlier. It can help your child fall asleep earlier or spend less time awake in their cot or bed after bedtime.
Sometimes babies and young children take a long time to get to sleep. This can happen for many reasons. For example, your child might:
- not be tired enough for sleep
- be in the habit of being awake at that time
- want to do a different activity like playing with you
- not think of their cot or bed as a place just for sleeping.
Bedtime fading can help your child get the sleep they need to stay healthy, develop well, and play and learn. It can also help you get more time for resting or doing other things you want to do.
Step 1: choose a bedtime
Bedtimes between 7 pm and 8 pm often work for young children.
For example, your child is currently falling asleep around 9 pm, but you think it’s better for your child to fall asleep around 8 pm.
This makes 8 pm your ideal bedtime.
Step 2: introduce a positive bedtime routine
A positive bedtime routine helps soothe and calm your child so they’re ready for sleep. It’ll make it easier for your child to fall asleep.
If you introduce a bedtime routine at the same time as you start bedtime fading, it helps your child link the routine with going to sleep.
A bedtime routine involves doing similar things in the same order each night before bed. It can include:
- pre-bed tasks like having a bath and brushing teeth
- quiet, enjoyable activities with you, like reading or listening to a story.
Step 3: put your child to bed at their actual bedtime
Bedtime fading starts with putting your child to bed at the time they’re naturally falling asleep now. This helps your child learn to associate being in bed with feeling sleepy.
For example, if you find that your child finally falls asleep about 9 pm, start with this as a temporary bedtime.
Step 4: start moving your child’s actual bedtime towards the ideal bedtime
When your child is falling asleep well at the later time, you can start gradually making your child’s bedtime earlier. This might be about a week after you start bedtime fading.
This involves making bedtime about 15 minutes earlier every few days. You do this until you reach the ideal bedtime for your child.
This gradual approach gives your child’s body time to get used to falling asleep at the earlier time. For example, they might start waking up earlier and feeling tired earlier in the day.
The strategy will work best if you consistently put your child to bed on time while you’re trying to make their bedtime earlier.
Bedtime fading example
Your child has been falling asleep at 9 pm, but you think an 8 pm bedtime is better for your child. Here’s how to do bedtime fading:
- Start your positive bedtime routine so that your child is ready for a 9 pm bedtime.
- Do this for 2 nights.
- Start your positive bedtime routine 15 minutes earlier than before, so your child is ready for an 8.45 pm bedtime.
- Do this for 2 nights.
- Continue this gradual ‘fading’ process until your child is going to bed at 8 pm or the time you think is best for them.
Our grown-ups section has a lot of articles on looking after yourself if the way your child sleeps and settles is making things hard for you.