I get two responses when talking about the time my kids go to bed: “I wish! My kids are up late no matter what I do!” and “I would hate that! I don’t want to be restricted by their schedule.” Both these responses are fair statements! There are good and bad sides to every argument, but I am a lover of the early bedtime in my home.
Kids Need More Sleep
Establishing good sleep habits from the start of a child’s life is very important—for the child and the family. Even if I didn’t have personal reasons for preferring crazy early bedtimes for my kids, the experts agree that kids need more sleep than adults. And often, it will take early bedtimes to get the amount and quality of sleep a child truly needs. For instance, this is a useful reference for the amount of sleep your child needs:1
- Newborns (up to three months): 14 to 17 hours
- Infants (four to 11 months): 12 to 15 hours
- Toddlers (one to two): 11 to 14 hours
- Preschoolers (three to five): 10 to 13 hours
- School-age (six to 13): 9 to 11 hours
- Tweens and Teens (14 to 17): 8 to 10 hours
“Swinging Bedtimes” Can Help Flexible Schedules
Before you read why my kids are often asleep before the sun goes down, I want to talk about what I define as an appropriate bedtime. My children are 3, 5, and 7 years of age, and bedtime falls between 6:30 and 8:00 p.m. See, that isn’t that crazy, right!? I have a range that allows me to adjust bedtime based on their day-to-day activities.
For example, if my 3-year-old doesn’t nap, she is ready to be tucked in around 6:30-6:45. But if she does have a nap, naturally, her body can stay up a little later. When working as a Sleep Consultant, I call this a “swinging bedtime.” Bedtime swings allow for the most restorative sleep. Nothing is worse than sticking to the same bedtime, and then after a good nap day, your toddler fights sleep until 9 o’clock anyway.
When my little ones were babies, 4-18 months, my range was 6:00 to 8:00 p.m. for asleep time. I followed the swinging bedtime based on nap hours that day, developmental milestones, activities, etc. A bad nap day meant an earlier bedtime, and a good nap day led to a later bedtime. During nap transitions, bedtime shifted earlier to 6–6:30 p.m., and as my babies adjusted to the new schedule, bedtime often moved closer to the 7-7:30 p.m. mark. Now that they are older, I try to keep bedtime more consistent between 7–8 p.m.
Reasons Moms Should Consider Early Bedtimes
I firmly believe that every family must do what works best for them! Parenting is hard enough without feeling judged about something like what time your kids go to bed. I have always cherished my early bedtimes, and these are my reasons why:
1. On most days, I am just a mom counting down the hours until bedtime.
Call me selfish if you want, but the days are long. It isn’t that I don’t love my time with them or that I like it when they are away from me, but I am all touched out and ready to get myself a snack at the end of the day!
2. I understand that an early-to-bed and early-to-rise schedule means more restorative sleep for my kids.
This is a big one for me. Learning about the sleep cycle and how the first spurt of night sleep is the deepest and most restorative sleep makes me want my kids to get this rest. During the first portion of the night, your body spends more time in a deep sleep. This is the restorative sleep portion of the sleep cycle. In the second part of the night, the body spends more time in REM sleep or light sleep. This is why babies and/or toddlers (and you) often wake more often in the second half of the night! Cool, right?!
3. My relationship with my husband deserves it.
Let me say that again. My relationship with my husband DESERVES it. Our life right now, and for the past seven years, has revolved around keeping little humans alive each day. This is a big task and one that sometimes takes all of your energy. At the end of the day, getting a couple of hours together before going to bed allows us to stay connected. After all, it was just the two of us that started the journey of having a family.
4. A good rest 90% of the time allows me to be flexible when needed!
Having an early bedtime does not mean my kids never stay up late. We enjoy a good party a time or two, just like everyone else. When my kids are well-rested and not overtired, it is easier to push the boundaries when we want to. A well-rested baby/child can adapt to change and different situations better than a chronically overtired one.
There you have it, my main reasons why I love myself an early bedtime for my kids. It comes down to creating a balance. Quality time with the kids and my husband, restful sleep for my children, and some time for me to eat snacks!!