We have all been there, counting down the hours until bedtime! Bedtime provides a time of rest for your little ones and a much-needed rest for you as a parent. The workload of raising tiny humans is tiring, and at the end of the day, we all deserve a break. As a mom, I love early bedtimes because the evening is the time for me to fill up my cup. This is when I have tea or a glass of wine and work on something I enjoy. You know, all those things you do not accomplish during the day when the kids are awake.
But more importantly, as a Sleep Consultant, I love early bedtimes because I know this is the most restorative sleep for little ones. Having a balance is key for sleep, but if there is one place I try and be the most consistent, it is an early bedtime.
6 Reasons Early Bedtimes are Best
Here are my top 6 reasons why an early bedtime is best for you and your baby!
1. You need your space!
This is a priority! You love your kids, of course. But if you do not have time for yourself, it can feel like you are drowning every day. Having already given all you have to offer throughout the day, you will continue to comfort your baby throughout the night as well. You need this time to relax, take a break, and fill up your cup! Find something you miss or tackle a project on your list. You will start to look forward to that couple of hours between your child’s bedtime and your own.
2. More quality sleep.
The first half of the night is your child’s deepest and most restorative sleep.1 The sleep cycle is still the same length, but more time is spent in deep sleep than in light sleep. This means that your little one gets the most restorative sleep at bedtime. This can help set up a more restful night and impact the quality of naps the next day as well!
3. Babies are programmed for an early bedtime.
A baby and/or toddler’s body is programmed to fall asleep between 6:00 – 8:00 p.m. Depending on their nap schedule and age, your child’s body starts to switch over or prepare for bedtime during the later afternoon. This means that melatonin (our sleep hormone) increases in the body. So when bedtime rolls around, they have a build-up allowing them to fall asleep easily and sleep well. Using their last awake time to find an appropriate bedtime works best and will enable bedtime to fall between that range in most cases. This is a natural transition in the body. So when we push them past these ranges, their body can become overtired, which means melatonin decreases in the body due to adrenaline or them getting their “second wind.”
4. Parents get more (needed) rest, too.
It allows the parents to have an earlier bedtime. This is also important because most little ones wake up between 6:00 – 8:00 a.m. This would not be a big deal, except if our child goes to bed later in the evening, we try to get our “me time” by staying up longer at night. This makes us more tired in the morning when the kids get up. An earlier bedtime for your child means having time for yourself and getting an earlier bedtime for yourself. Everyone increases their total sleep hours and feels more rested the next day.
5. Earlier bedtimes can reduce early morning wakings.
Are you hoping the later bedtime will push the morning wake-up past 6:00 a.m. for a change? Unfortunately, it usually does not work this way.2 When we make bedtime too late, it causes a rise in adrenaline in the body. When adrenaline is produced, melatonin is suppressed. We need that melatonin to remain high so your little one can get deeper sleep at the beginning of the night, helping them sleep more soundly during the early morning hours. If the beginning of the night is disrupted, we often see a lighter sleep between 4:00 –6:00 a.m. This can cause your baby to wake sometime between those hours. If your child gets restorative sleep at the beginning of the night, this can allow them to sleep better during those early hours and lead to a more appropriate morning wake-up after 6:00 a.m.
6. Consistency pays off.
A consistent early bedtime allows for more flexibility during “off” days.3 Every day will not be perfect. Birthdays, family events, special dinners, or other situations will come up, which is okay. The nice part about being consistent with an early bedtime is that it makes it easier for your little one to get back on track after having a later bedtime. They can handle having that special day and going to bed later. Then the next day, they will be ready to go to bed early again. If every day is all over the place, the inconsistency makes it hard to create a balance for you and your family.
As a mom and Sleep Consultant, those are my top reasons why early bedtimes are awesome! The overall conclusion is that we need our own time and restful sleep. And our little ones get the most restorative sleep from an earlier bedtime. Again, balance is key, but being consistent and predictable 80% of the time can help keep the whole family more rested.