Simple Solutions When 3 year Old Won’t Stay in Bed

It can be very difficult to get a toddler to sleep the whole night in their own bed and their own room. If your 3 year old won’t stay in bed all night, don’t worry, you’re not alone.

Some 3 year olds might keep getting out of bed before falling asleep, while others might be getting out of bed in the middle of the night, or in the wee hours of the morning. No matter what your situation is, it can be addressed in a way that’s both effective and respectful to your child.

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Why won’t 3 year old stay in bed?

Here are some common reasons why your 3 year old might not be staying in bed. These are the typical reasons, but your 3 year old is a unique individual and might have a different reason for getting out of bed. 

Reflect on these common reasons for 3 year olds getting out of bed and ask yourself if you think that’s the case for your child, if not, what could it be? Knowing the reasons will help you find the right solution.

Separation anxiety

Some children can be very scared and lonely at night time. Being away from you at night time can be difficult and if they can’t fall asleep they want to come find you to connect.

Solution: Make sure to have some good connection time before they go to bed. Read books together, cuddle, etc. Make sure to fill them up with love and your presence and that will help to reduce their separation anxiety when they’re supposed to be sleeping.

Hearing other people awake in the house

It can definitely be hard to sleep if you can hear other people still moving around and having fun. Your toddler might be getting out of bed simply because they want to join in with what others are doing.

Solution: Try to keep the rest of the household quiet, or add some white noise in their room such as a sleep sound app or a fan, this will help to drown out the sounds coming from the rest of the house.

Sleep routine changes

If their sleep routine has made a big change recently (ex. they’ve just moved to their own room, they’re not sharing a room with the baby, etc.) then that can lead to them getting out of bed a lot. They probably just need some time to adjust.

Solution: Keep your boundaries firm and keep the bedtime routine as consistent as possible. A consistent routine helps them to know what to expect and they’ll feel more grounded. Hold your boundaries by always taking them back to their bed, or whatever boundary works best for you.


The truth is it is harder for a child (or adult) to sleep when they’re overtired. If your 3 year old isn’t getting enough sleep then that might make them wake up in the middle of the night and seem wide awake – which means they won’t stay in bed.

Solution: Adjust bedtime to make sure they’re getting to sleep on time. Move bedtime up earlier and help them to relax at bedtime. Here are some recommendations on how to create a great bedtime routine.

More Solutions for 3 Year Olds Who Won’t Stay in Bed

Here are more solutions to go with the ones mentioned above. Remember, not every solution will work for you. You are the expert of your child, so you can decide which solutions you think are worth trying and which ones wouldn’t be a good fit for you and your child.

Weighted blanket

If your child has a hard time settling down then a weighted blanket can help them feel cozy and less stimulated – which will help them relax. If they’re getting up a lot because they are restless this can be a great solution. Always check the weight recommendations so a weighted blanket is safe for your child but here are two great weighted blankets – the YnM Kids and the Harkla Kids.

Talk it out

During the day (so not at bedtime) talk to your 3 year old about why they won’t stay in bed. Work together by listening to their thoughts and suggestions to figure out a way to help them stay in bed. Let them know you care about them and want them to get enough sleep so they’ll be happy and healthy.

Role play falling asleep

You can play together during the day what it’s like being in bed at night and trying to sleep. Doing this can help some of their sleep issues come to light – do they mention a weird shadow from the window or needing a drink of water? This might help you figure out what’s causing them to get out of bed every night while also teaching them what they can do to sleep better.

Bedtime snack

Is it possible your child is waking up because they’re hungry? You might need to consider a bedtime snack or make sure their dinner is filling enough to last until morning. If you need help figuring out what to feed your kids I would highly recommend checking our Kids Eat in Color for some great advice.

Audio book

A lot of parents have found it helps to play an audiobook for their child to listen to as they fall asleep, just make sure whatever device is playing it is out of reach so they can just listen instead of playing with it. This can help them to wind down by having something to pay attention to while relaxing their body. 

Audible is a great platform for audiobooks and if you’d like to start a 30 day free trial you can do that here.

White noise

A white noise machine helps so many different types of people sleep, no matter the age. If you don’t want to run a fan in their room then a dedicated white noise machine can really help because it will drown out other sounds in the house that might be waking them up or making them restless. Here is a great one on Amazon.

Ok to Wake Clock

Having an “ok to wake” clock can be a super tangible way to let your 3 year old know when they’re allowed to get out of bed. 

This is really helpful if your 3 year old gets out of bed early in the morning. It can be 5am but they think since their body is awake that it’s time to get up, an ok to wake clock can help them know that it’s still sleep time and that they’re expected to stay in their room or keep sleeping.

Here are two favourites on Amazon, the LittleHippo and the Mirari.

Baby gate if safety is an issue

Some parents will set up a baby gate on their child’s door if there is a concern about safety, so if their 3 year old is getting out of their room and getting into potentially dangerous situations early in the morning. 

I think this can be a perfectly fine strategy as long as your child can still feel safe and not like they’re being locked in and trapped, this means they should be able to call for you. Using a baby gate is kind of like turning their whole room into a giant crib.

Have Reasonable Expectations for 3 Year Old Sleep

The truth is, sleeping alone all night can be hard for some kids, and this might be a skill that takes them awhile to develop. You can try to recommended tips but it’s also important to stay very consistent so they can adjust to how things should be.

It’s really easy to look at what works for other kids and other parents, but it’s important to have reasonable expectations for both you and your child. 

You have to do what’s best for you too. Some parents know they don’t have the energy in the middle of the night if their 3 year old wakes up to hold the boundary of them only sleeping in their own bed, and it’s easier to just let them sleep in the parent’s bed. 

There might be “best practice” in terms of getting a child to sleep, but parents aren’t robots. We get cranky when we’re sleep deprived or frustrated that they’ve been awake for hours. 

So it’s important to have reasonable expectations for yourself, not just what you think would be best, because consistency is super important. If you can’t commit to taking them back to their bed every night it might end in you getting frustrated and mad at them and just bending the boundaries anyways.

How to handle 3 year olds not staying in bed for naps

If it is specifically naps where you’re struggling with your 3 year old staying in bed, then you can follow most of the tips from above but it’s also worth wondering if they still need naps.

If they don’t need naps anymore (and you really want to be sure that’s the case because dropping a nap can lead to cranky overtiredness) then I would suggest changing nap time into quiet time. This can be a time that they’re expected to stay in their room and play quietly, and sleep if they want to. It’s not entirely necessary for them to sleep but it will give them a chance to slow down and will also give you that time to yourself.

Should you cuddle your 3 year old to sleep and/or bedshare?

Their is nothing wrong with your 3 year old depending on you to be able to fall asleep and stay asleep. If it works best for you to cuddle them until they’re asleep and/or sleep in the same bed that is perfectly fine. You are not holding them back in any way at all.

For a lot of families this is the easiest solution for everyone to get more sleep and it can feel like an important time of bonding.

However, this system just doesn’t work for everyone. Here are a few reasons why cuddling your 3 year old to sleep every night might not work for you.

  • You have other children to take care of at night
  • You get impatient at bedtime and cuddling them gets your frustrated when they won’t fall asleep
  • They seem to get overstimulated when you’re in the room with them
  • You want more free time to yourself in the evenings to bounce back for the next day
  • You and your partner have inconsistent work schedules and don’t always have the time to cuddle them to sleep
  • You get a very sore back when you cuddle them in their bed for a long time

No matter what approach you take with your 3 year old to help them fall asleep and to stay in their bed it’s just important to be gentle and respectful in how you treat your child. If you feel that your approach is respectful to them then it doesn’t really matter if you’re full on bedsharing with them or leaving them to fall asleep on their own.

Gentle parenting isn’t cookie cutter parenting, we get to decide what works best in our own situations, but with the value of being respectful and gentle towards our kids.

I say this because it’s easy to compare and feel like we’re doing things wrong and doubt ourselves. Do what works best for you, your child, and your whole family.

You can learn more about gentle parenting by getting my free gentle parenting power tools.

Conclusion on How to Get 3 Year Old to Stay in Their Bed

It’s not impossible to get a 3 year old to stay in bed all night, but it can take patience and intentional decisions on your part. 

Look closely at why your 3 year old won’t stay in bed and find a suitable solution that is gentle and respectful for your child.

Be patient with them and stay consistent with your routine and boundaries so they will always know what to expect.

More Posts About Toddler Sleep

What You Need to Know About 2 Year Old Sleep Regressions

How to Fix Bedtime Battles

How to Help a Toddler Sleep

What to Do When Your 3 Year Old Won’t Stay in Bed

Gentle Parenting Power Tools Free Resource
What to do when your 3 year old won't stay in bed - with mom and daughter sitting on bed

1 thought on “Simple Solutions When 3 year Old Won’t Stay in Bed”

  1. Thank you for writing this. I’m surprised that three years in I still sometimes doubt my instincts and need to do the midnight googling, but I’m glad that I came upon your page and this post. Exactly what I needed to read. Thank you for your common sense and kind approach.

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