Sleep Unders and Exit Strategies: The New Rules of Sleepovers in 2024

Slumber parties aren't what they used to be

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Sleepovers were a rite of passage back in your day. But now? Well, let’s just say that things have changed. Whether out of a desire to avoid totally zonked out kids the next day or fears over something untoward happening, the rules of slumber parties have changed drastically over the years. Here’s how to navigate sleepovers in 2024—if you choose to do them at all, that is.

1. Know That Sleepovers Are Now a Battleground

It’s all well and good to read up on the dos and don’ts of going to or hosting a sleepover these days, but it’s not a given that all kids will partake in this particular childhood pastime. That’s because sleepovers have become somewhat of a controversial topic as of late, with many parents taking to TikTok to explain why they are choosing the no sleepover rule. Their reasoning? They say there’s no surefire way of keeping track of your kids when they’re out of your hands.

Truth be told, the great debate over sleepovers has been going on for years, but with the rise of social media, it seems to only have intensified. (The Wall Street Journal recently wrote a story about the great parent divide, as did But what about concerns that kids are missing out on all that bonding and fun that sleepovers can provide? That brings us to our next point…

2. Sleep Unders Are the New Sleepovers

A sleep under is just like a sleepover, minus the lack of sleep and unsupervised time. Here’s how it works: Instead of letting the kids stay up all night (and keeping parents up until the wee hours), leaving everyone totally wrecked the next day from lack of sleep, they do everything they normally would at a sleepover but come home late.

Also called ‘lateovers,’ the New York Times describes these hangouts as extended playdates where “children come to play, but they don’t stay to sleep.” Kids are invited over around dinnertime, they wear their PJs and bring sleeping bags so they can get cozy, eat snacks, watch movies, talk and play games. Then around bedtime (or a little later), their parents come and pick the kids up.

One mom whose kid has had a few sleep unders told us she thinks they’re great. “My 8-year-old went to one recently that started at 5 p.m. They did a craft, had pizza, then got into unicorn-theme PJs that the mom bought as favors, so they all matched, then they took funny pictures in a photo booth she set up, watched a movie, had cake and came home around 9 p.m.”

So basically, a sleep under comes with all the bonding, junk food and good times of a regular sleepover, without any of the potential downsides. Well, except for one, per a parent who’s done it: “My husband jokes that late-overs are evil because they give you a false sense of freedom—it seems like a night off where you can use the free babysitting to go out to dinner, but then you have to deal with sugar-crazed kids busting home way past their bedtime. He doesn't love them. But the kids do.”

3. If You Are Having a Sleepover, Have an Exit Strategy

So your son’s friends all want to watch the latest horror flick and your kid is secretly terrified. What he needs is a way out of this sleepover without losing face. That’s just one of the reasons why consent educator and abuse prevention specialist Rosalia Rivera stresses the importance of having a safety word that kids can use if anyone makes them feel unsafe or uncomfortable. You can ask your child what options they would like to use or you can suggest something, such as “I have a headache” or “my belly feels bad” — something your child can say to you on the phone to let you know that they need help, but they can’t explain more at that moment, so you can come pick them up pronto. If your kid has a smartphone and can call or text you, they can use a single word like “X” or “headache.” Bottom line: Even if they aren’t in danger, they need a way to know they can leave quickly, if they need to.

4. Rethink Gendered Rules

This generation is shaping up to be the most aware one yet. As such, the rules of “only boys/girls allowed” from your childhood just won’t work. As queer parent and editor Amber Leventry writes in Parents: “The dated sleepover rule of separating genders to avoid handsy interactions as kids get older was always misguided and doesn't fit what we know about today's more open and evolved youth.”

Leventry has some easy-to-follow advice for parents looking to navigate these new waters. First, start a conversation about family expectations of behavior and values. Parents could ask their kids what type of privacy they should be entitled to when they have friends sleepover, for example. Once your kid has shared their ideas, you can then negotiate over specific rules. “Make it clear what is okay and not okay in your house—regardless of gender.” Next, Leventry suggests you talk to your kids about why we have sleepovers: to build friendships and have fun. This is a good time to also talk about consent. “​​I don't have much advice about the mess that will be created by a room full of tweens or teens, but I know that a sleepover with happy and informed friends of mixed genders and various sexual orientations is a beautiful, albeit sleep-deprived, scene,” they note.

5. Communication Above All

Remember when your mom dropped you off at a classmate’s house with nothing more than a quick peck on the cheek and a half-hearted admonishment to not stay up too late? Not anymore. These days, if a parent is agreeing to a sleepover, they want to know everything there is to know about the family, barring their social security number (but if you don’t mind, we’ll take that too). Who is going to be home? Where will they be sleeping? Do you have cable? Will there be smartphones? Are there any guns in the house? You can find lists of questions to ask parents all over the internet (see exhibit A. and B. and C.).

Myka Meier, the founder of Beaumont Etiquette, told us that if you’re hosting or attending a sleepover, you should “make sure you have the other parents’ contact details and an agreement about what to do if something happens in the middle of the night. (Will you leave your phones on? Are 1 a.m. pickup pleas forbidden?).” She also recommends taking a few extra minutes to chat with the other adults upon arrival, which can be a good moment to talk about allergies or medicines and instructions for how to use them. In other words, if you’re hosting a sleepover, then be prepared to answer a barrage of questions beforehand with basically nothing off limits—one parent even reports being asked whether or not they have a water filter at home. (We told you the rules had changed…)

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Executive Editor

Alexia Dellner is an executive editor at PureWow who has over ten years of experience covering a broad range of topics including health, wellness, travel, family, culture and...