When I first started reading the sleep books and implementing new schedules and routines in my house, I think my family thought I was a being a little too obsessive. But now that they have seen the results of a well-rested family, they have become believers themselves. And I’m definitely rubbing off on them, as my 4 year old daughter will see someone yawn and say “it’s time for them to go to sleep”, and my husband will see a small child out with their family after 9 pm and think “that child should be in bed!” And why isn’t that child in bed? Is it a lack of knowledge about proper bedtime or do we choose our child’s bedtime just out of convenience?
When working with my families, one of the first things I look at is bedtime. Often the child is going to bed too late, which creates a sleep debt that compounds day after day. When I suggest an earlier bedtime many parents have to choose between an age appropriate bedtime for their child, or spending more time with them after work. Just because our lives have gotten busier doesn’t mean our children’s sleep needs have changed. And unfortunately some kids are suffering because of it. Sleep is so important for optimal growth, learning and development. As Dr. Marc Weissbluth, author of Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child says, “Sleep is the power source that keeps your mind alert and calm. Every night and at every nap, sleep recharges the brain’s battery. Sleeping well increases brainpower just as lifting weights builds stronger muscles, because sleeping well increases your attention span and allows you to be physically relaxed and mentally alert at the same time. Then you are at your personal best.” As adults, we’ve all experienced the effect of lack of sleep on our attention spans and cognitive ability, and our children are no different.
So when is an appropriate bedtime? It can be any time between 5-8 pm, but it doesn’t have to be the same time every night. Bedtime should be based on the quality of naps during the day, the quality of night time sleep, and your child’s temperament towards the end of the day. Does you child have a meltdown at 6 pm? He most likely needs to go to bed earlier than his usual bedtime. Did you child only nap for 30 mins? Make up the time at bedtime. And don’t worry if you think that an earlier bedtime will cause your little one to wake early – they often wake up later!
I know parents don’t want to give up that quality time before bed, but at what cost? Is it in fact good “quality” time? If not, perhaps we could all use some more sleep.
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- Sleep Deprivation: The Dark Side of Parenting (scienceofmom.com)
- Officials Say Lack Of Sleep Is Dangerous To Health (washington.cbslocal.com)