Why Is My 3 Year Old Not Tired at Night?

Updated on February 09, 2008
S.M. asks from Gresham, OR
16 answers

My son is driving me crazy!! he is about to turn 3 in Feb. If he had it his way he would stay up till 11 and sleep in till 9am with no nap during the day. This schedule just doesn't work for me. I wake up every morning at 5am with my husband, see him off to work, have some coffee, watch some news, fold laundry, light house cleaning. Greet kids for my preschool begninng at 7am. I would like it if my son woke up around 7am. He is a bear if I wake him or if he wakes up on his own.

so, I try to go in and wake him up by 7:30 if he hasn't gotten up yet. He is clearly tired by 1 o'clock everyday and I put him down for a nap most days. I've tried not givig him a nap and he is a bear in the evenings and/or falls asleep rather early and is up at midnight ready for fun!

So, he has a nap at 1o'clock and then wants to sleep till 4 or later!!
I try to wake him up by 4 so he'll go to sleep at a good time.

Is this confusing yet?

I'd like him to be in bed by 8;30 and asleep by atleast 9pm. But he pushes it to later and later each night. 10, 11. he sings in his bed, gets up, gets into things. I go to bed between 9pm and 10. I'd like five minutes alone with my husband but it rarely happens.

He just wont settle down and go to sleep.

My question is, does anyone have experience with this? How much sleep should he get a night, and is 8:30 reasonable bed time?

What can I do next?

  • Add your own comment
  • Ask your own question
  • Join the Mamapedia community
  • as inappropriate
  • this with your friends

So What Happened?

Alright... so What I did was take pictures of my kids doing their bedtime routine, clean up, take a bath, put pj's on, pick a book, brush teeth, go to sleep!
I printed them out and had my oldest help me laminate them with clear contact paper. we then traced shapes so I could write their name and All Done!. and also laminated those.
Then we put them on the wall in a line in front of their name with sticky tac. They were so excited about this! so I told them when they finished a task before bed they got to move their picture down to the all done row... I told my daughter she didn't have to take a bath and she fussed! "oh I have to, I'm stinky!" (we've also had a hard time getting her to take a bath). So together they went finishing all their tasks on the wall, and when it was all done they ran to put their go to sleep down and jumped in bed! It's worked now for a few days just like clockwork! he is asleep by 9, up by 7am and even takes a shorter nap all on his own!! I have a small struggle at nap time but he wakes up after only an hour 1/2. :)

it is also helping with clean up and brushing teeth.
My husband even knows now how to help them get to sleep now on the nights I'm at school.

We are working on doing a morning routine schedule too.

Thanks everyone!

More Answers



answers from Portland on

I have a 4 and 3 year old. My 3 year old really does not want to 'nap' and likes to sleep late in the morning, staying in bed until 9 am if I let her. I have a 'quiet time' for 2 hours in the afternoon (1-3). They each go to their own rooms and must be quietly on their beds. They are not required to 'sleep'. They have a few books and quiet toys. I have found the 4 year old will fall asleep every time. My 3 year old, it is hit or miss. I figure the days she sleeps, her body needed it. The days she does not, she is at least 'quietly resting' and I think that is beneficial as well. Their bedtime is roughly 8 pm. I try to keep it routine before (bath, brush teeth, read and/or Kipper) bed time. I don't give my kids 'a choice' about quiet time. It is just a matter of fact for our day, as routine as eating breakfast! ;-) I hope this helps.
Mom to Five 20, 17, 14, 4, and 3

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Portland on

This is the age when I had to stop giving naps. If I gave my son a nap he would be awake until 11pm as well. I suggest waking him up at 7am and putting him to bed at 8. You have to stick with that routine for about a week and he'll adjust. There will be a few days of crankiness, but it's worth it in the end to get your free-time in the evenings with your husband. :)

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Portland on

How many hours in a 24 hour period does he typically sleep?
Generally for that age it should be 12. You set the schedule no matter what. You have to do it until he forms the habit and his body clock is set the way you want it. I suggest to start waking him at 6:30 am and make sure he is out and awake just before you start taking kids, they will fully wake him. Have him take his nap at 1pm like normal but, come 2pm get him up no matter what. Start getting him ready for bed depending on how good he is about it at 7pm or 6:30pm and by 8pm in bed no exceptions. This is the hard part of parenting being consistant. He will eventually know what schedule to expect after he forms the habits of being awake to your time table. It won't be instant infact like everything it will usually get worse beore it gets better. If you stick with the schedule you set, it will sink in. Hyland's a a homeopathic tablet called Calms Forte you might give him before he brushes his teeth at night. Nightlites might help too. I use fiberoptic change color lights to hypnotize my daughter to sleep with them. There are several good books in the library. The best advise I got from them was turn off the TV a least 1 hour before bed and make your house as quiet and dim as possible as early as you can to trigger sleepiness. Having no stimuli to react to will help to settle him at night.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Portland on


I would get the book, "Sleeping through the night" at your local library, because it explains the right amount of sleep for each child's age group and talks all about sleeping patterns and gives advice. Also, from personal experience I resisted forcing my daughter to go to bed early and have learned that I need to give her the times at this age to get ready for bed and sleep. It takes time, but if you are patient and you pick a time you want you son to wake up and go to sleep you can help him to learn how to relax and prepare himself for bed and to wake up. It is important for children to learn this because it's a life time of benefits.

Let's face it, we could all learn how to learn to prepare ourselves to sleep better. There are many methods on how to learn to relax before bed time. For example, a bubble bath with the lights turned down, turn on a plug in smell night-lite, music, reading, warm drink and the list goes on and on. Each person is different and what worked before may need to change later, but just try different methods until your child is relaxed. What worked for me was to stay in the room and force my daughter to stay in bed. I would try different things to calm her and she fussed for the first two nights and then begin to get sleepy and request to sleep. She appreciates the things I do to help her sleep and we all are much happier.

For getting up, If you know your child has had the right amount of sleep then you can feel better about teaching him to wake up at a reasonable time. Just like falling asleep, waking up is the same. I wake up to a hot drink and breakfast. I change what I make depending on the time of year. You can do this with your son, such as, special hot cereal with a suprise at the bottom (chocolate chips or fruit) with a smile on top ;) You can have cold cereal fun with mixing and matching cold crunchies. Have an alarm clock that plays his favorite tunes nice and soft and teach him to turn it off when he is ready. set routines for brushing teach, washing face and make it fun by including him in buying new cool tooth brushes/paste and wash cloths. Anyway, my point is getting him excited about morning time gets him up and going and it doesn't have to take long if you are ready and think ahead. Oh, and reward him with a new bath robe, slippers, and jammies next time he grows out of his old ones and tell him you love how he is doing such a good job taking care of himself.

Anyway, I think I can get off my bed bugs and wish you well!!
I hope this has helped, Have a nice day and pleasant dreams...


1 mom found this helpful


answers from Portland on

Hi there! You've received some great advice. Here are a few extras; maybe one will be helpful:

-I've noticed with my daughter that if I include a board or card game in the bedtime routine, it seems to mentally wear her out a bit. She goes to sleep more easily on those nights.
-Try a sticker chart. I made a "path" on a sheet of paper with 10 stepping stones leading to the big reward- a movie she got for Christmas. Every night I give her two stickers right away, just sitting next to the chart. If I have to go back in her room for any reason, legitimate or not, I take a sticker. When she wakes up in the morning she places the stickers still remaining on her chart. This method eliminated the dreaded "call backs" altogether after two nights- we're on the tenth night or so, now, and she's working towards her next reward: a special lunch date with dad.
-Watch out for healthy late evening foods that have sugar in them- juices, fruits, some carbs.
-In the afternoon get outside for some exercise, rain or shine. There's nothing like fresh air!
-If you really want him asleep by 9:00. I would suggest shooting for lights out at 8:00.

Your experience reminds me of when we travelled overseas when my oldest was 3 and the youngest was one. The first 4 days and nights adjusting to the time difference were NOT FUN! I was ready to commit myself to the loony bin that first night. Anyway, you're kind of trying to do the same thing- help him adjust to your preferred time zone! Stick to the schedule, eliminate the nap, create a short-term reward system to make it worth his while.

Good luck!

J. W.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Seattle on

I have a 10 year old, fifth grade girl who sounds a lot like your boy. I decided for all our sanity that I would accept that she is a night owl and that is her natural sleep pattern, and my goal became not trying to get her to sleep (which always created conflict), but teaching her how to manage herself when she didn't sleep. Now that she is older I see that I made the right choice for our family.
And also, shorten the nap down to 2-3 hours at the most. Or instead of napping have "quiet time" which is in a nap spot, not the bed, and only picture books or music, quiet books on tape, that sort of thing.
I taught her that she pretty much had to stay in bed, and never told her it was time to 'sleep' (how exactly do you MAKE someone sleep anyway?) I taught her what she could get into (like a book on tape or picture books) and what she had to avoid (like art projects and certain toys), what kind of snack she could get for herself (like plain yogurt or warm milk). I reinforce the natural consequence of her choices, "wow, you are really being a bear. You didn't sleep enough." Or, "Gosh honey, you are having a hard time, you slept too long." I never shame her or put too much pressure on her to do it "right" because she is just different from us. It's my job to help her figure out how to manage her own body, not to force her into something she can't do.
I also had an in-home childcare for 5 years and took night classes. So my own sleep was incredibly important, as was quality time with my spouse. That's why I focused on tools, and also taught my little one about respect for me and my needs. A lot of the sleep thing was that she didn't want to be left alone. I made the rule that mommy went 'off duty' at a certain time (which meant, I'm reading to myself, not to you right now), and that she had to be in her bed at least resting, but it was okay to come in and get a hug when she needed to be reassured, she just wasn't allowed to wake me up if I was asleep. And when she was a bear because she was tired, I allowed her to be cranky but did not allow her to take it out on others.
She's still a night owl, but now she is almost completely self relient, accepts responsibility for her actions, and I get my sleep and have my personal time too.
Since you have another child, you'll have to teach the sibling that the two of them are different, what works for one doesn't always work for the other.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Portland on

Hi, S.,

Some kids really do just have different body clocks. The first thing I would do is absolutely NOT let him nap until 4. If he is going to take a nap at 1, it should be for 45 minutes, max. This is only because it appears that the midday nap really energizes him for the afternoon and evening. I know you might possibly want him to nap, because you probably enjoy that precious time alone when he IS asleep. And I know he may be very resistant to being woken up before he has his full three hours' beauty sleep. But, you HAVE to get him up and keep him up.

The other thing I would suggest, and this depends on you and your preferences and how you feel about medications and so on, is to experiment with giving him very low doses of either benedryl or melatonin at night. My son, who is now 10, could never sleep without those (he actually takes both). The melatonin does help restore a natural body rhythm, if that's your son's problem, while the benedryl is an antihistimine that makes people sleepy (while controlling their allergies). I would discuss these with your pediatrician (what does he/she say, by the way?) as far as dosage amounts. If your pediatrician is adamantaly against using these, you might want to shop around for a doctor who is more flexible. Another over-the-counter remedy we used, although I'm not sure how much it helped, was the homeopathic remedies for teething AND for colic (they can be found in regular grocery stores, often hanging off the racks in the baby department). One of them has belladona in it, I think, and that definitely does have a sedative effect.

But if you are opposed to any medications (and I am assuming you have made sure he is not getting any caffeine and very, very limited sugars during the day), you may have to accept that he has his own rhythm. Part of it may be a way to manipulate you, especially if you ever get the sense he is actually fighting to stay awake. Remember, kids at any age are devoted to trying to find ways to control their parents. To address this, if you suspect it might be an issue, you just need to be very firm about the limited nap time. Also, you might want to consider just leaving him be at night; maybe if he gets no reaction to staying up and singing and playing and you just ignore him, he will not find it as attractive.

Good luck. I can tell you that over time, sleep issues will change and you WILL get some sleep.


1 mom found this helpful


answers from Medford on

Don't let him get out of bed and play. Sit in his room if you have to and just keep putting him to bed without saying anything.
My daughter is 8 and her bedtime is 8. During the summer it is 9. Children under 5 years need 12 hours of sleep (including naps) or more for proper brain development.



answers from Seattle on

Hi - I dont have experience with this but I would recommend gettting the book "Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child". It is a great book and has good ideas.
Have you tried discipline for getting up out of his bed late at night? Make sure you are not rewarding the behavior.
What is he doing before going to bed? Is he having down time before going to bed so that he is in quiet mode?
I guess my thoughts are to make sure he is not taking a nap too late in the afternoon, it sounds like that is what you are doing. I would ask your pediatrician if he/she has any ideas as well. Just some things to think about!



answers from Anchorage on

on a day when you don't have preschool... see how long he sleeps until he wakes up on his own.

it sounds like he needs about 10 hours (this may be just right for him - every kids is different) and he may just not require a nap... or a shorter one. You can't really force his own individual requirements for sleep.. but you might be able to work on the schedule.

So if you want him to wake up at 7 then he needs to go to bed at 9. Start by establishing a routine: same thing in the same order every night, for example: warm bath with lavender bath followed by lavendar lotion, warm milk and bedtime snack.. maybe a bowl of oatmeal, a quiet story, prayers and tuck him in.. consider warming his pajamas and blankets in the dryer for relaxing and comforting. If he cries or gets up, gently put him back in bed and tell him he must stay. Leave the room and set the timer for 5 minutes. Let him cry.. it won't hurt him! After 5, if he is still crying.. go in there and tuck him back in and then set the timer for 10. Still crying?? 15 minutes. If he is still crying, 20. If he is still crying after 20, change his diaper, give him a small drink, read one short story, then tuck him in again.. and start it all over again. The idea is that he will learn you will come back after a time and either cry himself to sleep or fall asleep waiting. It may take a few nights to get to the point of doing this less and less and eventually not at all or only once. But it can work if you stick to the routine. You may get frustrated and tired for lack of sleep for a few nights.. but if you tough it out it can pay off. I had to do this with three of my kids at different stages/ages... it works. There was one that had a harder time.. it turned out he had some food allergies and was in pain. So if it goes on beyond 3 or 4 days.. or if you dont' do it one night but then try it again another night.. it might get confusing and will take longer.

He may just not need naps if he gets enough sleep at night. I had one quite taking naps by the time she was TWO.... and she didn't sleep that long at night. It is just the way some kids are built. You may have to adjust to him, rather than make him adjust to you

best wishes..



answers from Seattle on

I am in a similar situation! My dd is almost 4, wakes up (or is supposed to) at 6:30am goes to preschool-naps almost 3 hours a day til nearly 4pm, and I try to get her to bed by 9pm. For the last few nights, it's been midnight or later that she actually falls asleep! So, I'll be checking in on your other responses for any insight as well..I wish you luck!



answers from Seattle on

I would not give him a nap in the daytime try to keep him active until bedtime and see if that works



answers from Portland on

it all depends on your child and you have to figure him out. both of my daughters quit napping around 2 :( i start putting them both to bed at 6:30 (on good days) and they sleep all night and wake up like clockwork at 7:15am. my younger one falls asleep in the car rarely and when she does, she then wants to stay up until 10pm. she is cranky some days but she is generally kind of cranky all day (she's 3).

my girls don't wake up well either. it was almost guaranteed that my younger one would wake up crying and inconsolable from naps. i can't wake up my older one either. if i do, we're going to have a grumpy morning. so i got her an alarm clock. it wakes her up and then she feels like she's getting up on her own and isn't so crabby. so i usually don't need an alarm for myself since my kids wake me up on time anyway. i still set it tho, just in case.

i would say to try to skip the nap and just put him to bed earlier.

(OK so i just read your post and maybe none of this will work for you but maybe it will help someone else. my only advice now would be to just stick to your guns. when he gets up after going to bed early, you'll just have to keep taking him back to his room until he gets the point that there will be no fun had by getting up in the middle of the night.)



answers from Seattle on

Boy do I sympathize with you. I have the same problem with my 3 year old son, Jessan. I can wake him up at the crack of dawn (to much screaming and whining, which actually seems to happen anyway) keep him up all day, with the plan that bedtime will mean asleep by 9 pm at the latest. But this plan usually backfires on me. He certainly is a night owl which just doesn't work for me.

The part that is hardest for me personally to deal with is that until he started climbing out of his crib and was moved to a toddler bed, from birth almost you understand, he was religiously put to bed at the same time as the other kids, always by 9. He spent the first 18 to 24 months on a very strict sleeping schedule, with no problems. Then, BAMM, problems. I just don't get it. We have a bedtime routine that includes someone reading to both Jessan and his big sister, Sequoyah (4, who has no problem going to sleep or waking up), either myself, hubby or one of the other big kids. He always get a bedtime is coming warning, gets his bath, teeth brushed and then some cuddle time with mom, before the actual bedtime hits.

I wish I had some actual helpful advice for you, but unfortuneately, all I have to offer is to let you know that you're not alone in your dilemma. I'm actually hoping to hear something helpful from one of these posts. So far I've noticed: routine (I've got it, and since you're running a daycare from your home, I assume you have also), limiting sugar and caffine intact (duh), or medicating our children to get them to sleep(I don't know about you, but this rates right up there with putting misbehaving kids on Riddilin or other mind and mood altering drugs-- which comes down to not an option, at least for me). So I guess that leaves us both with deal with it until these kids get older and mature enough to realize this is going to happen whether they like it or not. Not a very pleasant thought, but I guess our only option.

Good luck, I'll be praying for your sanity, please pray for mine.



answers from Portland on

It seems like you have a lot on your plate. I think most three year olds are going to need a nap but if you want him to go to bed early you would need to get him to stay up all day. Eventually I think he would get used to the schedule. My daughter took naps until she was five. She did stay up later and I preferred the sleeping in. I personally dont recall my daughter going to bed that early at three years old. She would usually go to sleep by 10 but she would then sleep until 8 or 10 in the morning. I believe they need 10-12 hours of sleep a night. Every child is different so maybe he does not need as much.
Good luck



answers from Eugene on

I am sorry to report that I don't have any answers to this problem but know exactly what you are going through...because our foster son just turned 3 in November and won't sleep to save his life. Your three year old schedule sounds EXACTLY like mine. Crazy! Good luck,


Next question: Help with My 3 Year Old's Nap Habits