While you're babysitting, you might start to feel tired and wonder if it's okay to sleep or not.
Can babysitters sleep while they're on the job? Sleeping on the job is usually not recommended. You need to be awake and ready to tend to any needs of the children you're watching. But there are a few exceptions, like if you're babysitting overnight.
In this article, I'll explain why sleeping while you're babysitting is generally frowned upon, times when it might be okay, and six tips to help keep yourself awake while you're working.
Why Sleeping While Babysitting Probably Isn't A Good Idea
Sleeping on the job might not be a great idea as parents may be angry that you're sleeping while they're paying you. If you're going to take a nap after the children you're watching have gone to bed, check with the parents first to make sure they're okay with it.
Even if the parents you're babysitting for are okay with you going to sleep, it's a good idea to set an alarm and wake up shortly before they plan to be home.
Having a sleeping babysitter can also be scary for a child. They might wake up and call for the babysitter but not get a response, which could cause them to panic. Also, if you are in a deep sleep, you might not be able to hear if a child gets into some kind of trouble or if there's an emergency.
Generally speaking, as the kids get older, they are more likely to sleep through the night. That is, up until they become teenagers—then you have to start watching for things like sneaking out. So for older kids, until they become teenagers and stay up late, getting some rest yourself isn't as big of a deal.
What kind of things should you do after the kids are asleep? Read our 10 dos and 7 don'ts that all babysitters should know.
When Can Babysitters Sleep?
There is some debate between babysitters about whether it's okay to sleep while you're working or not. Answers can also vary from family to family that you're babysitting for. So it can be hard to get a clear answer that applies to all circumstances.
The one time that it's 100% acceptable for a babysitter to sleep is while you're babysitting overnight. If you're going to be babysitting from evening until the next morning, it's assumed that you're going to sleep. You aren't expected to stay up and keep watch all night.
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Most parents adjust the rates they pay for overnight babysitters to account for this. You will probably get paid less, usually about half your regular rate, during the overnight hours that you'll be sleeping.
Are you having trouble getting kids to bed when babysitting? Try my 8 bedtime secrets, and you'll be a bedtime babysitting master in no time!
When Shouldn't Babysitters Sleep?
Taking a nap while the kids you're watching are still awake is pretty universally considered a bad idea. After all, you're specifically there to take care of them!
If the kids are awake, you should be engaging with them, supervising them, and keeping them busy—not catching up on missed sleep!
Avoid staying up late or going to a party the night before if you know you're going to have to babysit. Otherwise, you may be too exhausted to give the children you're watching the proper level of care.
Catching some shut-eye yourself while kids are napping is a bit more of a grey area. Some parents might be okay with you resting while the kids have an afternoon nap. Other parents may expect you to be awake the entire time you're working, and could also expect you to do other tasks like cleaning or tidying up while the kids are asleep.
If you do want to take a rest while kids are napping and it’s okay with parents, it should pretty much be a short snooze on the couch where you can get up easily if anything happens.
Even if you have permission from parents to sleep while their kids are taking a nap, it's still a good idea to keep a baby monitor close to you so that you'll know if the kids wake up and need assistance.
It’s important to know how long the kids are supposed to sleep and if you are expected to wake them after an hour or two so they don’t keep parents awake all night later!
Six Tips To Help Keep You Awake
Here are some things to help you from getting sleepy while you're babysitting.
1. Take A Nap Before You Go
If you know that you're going to be babysitting until later into the night, or even if you're just feeling tired, it can be a good idea to have a nap at home before you go. If you have a busy schedule, then this might not always be possible, but it's a good option to consider doing when you can.
2. Keep The Room Bright
If you're working at night, turn on as many bright lights as possible to help keep you alert and awake. If you're babysitting during the day, keep the curtains and blinds open to let in natural sunlight.
3. Bring Snacks
Have some healthy snacks ready to eat while you're babysitting to help keep your blood sugar steady.
Bring some healthy snacks like a salad, crackers, nuts, and dried fruit, veggies, granola, or fresh fruit.
Candy can help wake you up in the short run, but you may experience a sugar crash a few hours later. So it isn't a great choice if you still have a long night ahead of you.
4. Put On Some Music
You'll need to wear earbuds so that you don't wake the kids you're babysitting, but putting on some upbeat music can help keep your energy level up and prevent you from getting drowsy.
Just make sure to put only one earbud in and leave the other off, so you can hear anything that is going on, such as a kid that needs you or someone calling the home or knocking at the door.
If the kids are still awake, you can play some music through speakers to make things more high-energy for everyone. Just make sure to wind it down well before bedtime, so the kids can be calm enough to get to sleep.
5. Drink A Caffeinated Beverage
If you drink coffee, bringing some with you to your babysitting job never hurts. If tea, energy drinks, or soda are more your thing, those can work too.
It's a good idea not to drink caffeine too late during your babysitting shift, though, or you might have trouble sleeping later.
If you can't have caffeinated beverages, just drinking water can help keep you alert as well. Being dehydrated can make it harder to stay focused and awake.
6. Walk Around
If you're just sitting on the couch, you'll naturally start to feel a bit sluggish. Walk around the house a bit to wake yourself up. You can't go for a walk outside while you're babysitting, but you can open up a window in the daytime to get a little bit of fresh air.
Here are some other common questions you may have:
If I'm babysitting overnight, do I sleep in the parent's bed?
Most parents may not be comfortable having you sleep in their bed. It can be a lot of extra work for them to change the bedsheets before you arrive and wash the bedsheets again after you leave.
If it hasn't been discussed, it's best to assume that you should sleep on the couch or guest bed. Just be sure to discuss this with parents before they leave to be sure what their plan is for your sleeping arrangements.
What time do kids need to go to bed while I'm babysitting?
It depends on the age of the child.
Newborns and infants don't have circadian rhythms at first and sleep in short bursts all throughout the day and night. One-year-olds might start to have a consistent bedtime as early as 6 PM. Even school-aged children (between the ages of 6 and 12) are still very active and experiencing a lot of growth, so they should go to bed between 7 and 9 PM.
But no matter what you think, it's best to ask the parents details about the child's bedtime routine before they leave. Jot down any instructions in our Parent Details Form, so you can remember exactly what to do.
How much should I charge while babysitting overnight?
There are two main approaches. Some people charge half their standard rate for the hours that they're asleep. Others get paid a flat amount ranging from about $50 to $150 for the overnight portion of their hours. Usually, the overnight portion will cover a specific timeframe, such as from 8 PM to 8 AM the next morning.
You can negotiate with your particular family about this ahead of time. Many babysitters will also charge their regular rate for any planned times that they need to wake up and assist children they're babysitting during the night, such as getting them up for a feeding or helping them to use the bathroom so they don’t wet the bed.
See our Babysitting Rate Guide to learn some secret tips for pricing your overnight babysitting services.
Babysitting at night can sometimes be quite different than during the day. Read my article on babysitting at night to learn some of the key differences.
Whether you can sleep or not while you’re babysitting depends on a few things. While the kids you're watching are awake, you should always be awake and taking care of them.
But once the kids go to bed, it's a bit of a grey area. If you're going to be babysitting overnight and staying until morning, you are allowed to sleep. But whether you may sleep when you're only babysitting for the evening will really depend on the parents who are paying you. It's best to ask and see what their expectations are in advance.
Even if you get approval from parents to rest while their kids are sleeping or napping, it's still best to use a baby monitor or keep a close ear in case the children wake up. And never wear earplugs or headphones. The safety and well-being of the kids you are babysitting are always your first priority.
Do you find late-night babysitting interrupts your sleep routine too much? If so, you should read our article: The Essential Guide to Babysitting Night Shifts for some brilliant tips from Emma Smith, an emergency nurse who has worked irregular shifts for over 12 years.
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