Many of the parents I work with have children that are fighting bedtime, waking up frequently throughout the night, and rising early in the morning. While our work together will do a deep-dive into more than just schedule adjustments, making sure that bedtime is well-timed is an important piece of the puzzle. More often than not, parents tell me that their child just doesn’t seem tired at bedtime, but in many cases, an early bedtime is an easy & impactful change to make when working on healthier sleep hygiene.
What time should my child’s bedtime be?
99% of the time, your child’s bedtime should fall between 6:00 p.m. and 8:00 p.m. While I fully believe that all children are different and some tend to do better with a slightly later bedtime, most children over the age of three months do best with a bedtime within this window. But why? Here are 5 benefits of an earlier bedtime.
1. It’s easier to put a child to bed before they get overtired
Between the hours of 6:00 p.m. – 8:00 p.m., there is a natural dip in the circadian rhythm. Melatonin production ramps up and the body becomes biologically primed for sleep. This is an optimal time to capitalize on the ease of putting your child to bed before they get a “second wind”. Think about how tired you might feel early in the evening. You say to yourself, “I’m going to go to bed so early tonight!” But all of the sudden it’s 11:00 p.m. and you’re still on the couch scrolling through Instagram, watching The Real Housewives and not really feeling all that tired. Why is that? It’s because you got your “second wind”; your body began to pump stimulating hormones into your system to keep you awake when you didn’t climb in bed after dinner. The same things happens with our children when we miss this optimal window. While it’s certainly easier to get children to fall asleep when these stimulating hormones aren’t running through out bodies, there are also several unattractive side-effects that overtiredness brings with: crankiness, tantrums, power struggles, and behavior issues. Getting your child down before they reach this stage can help reduce bedtime stress enormously.
2. Early bedtimes help reduce night wake-ups & early rising
Being overtired can also lead to frequent night-waking and early rising. With more adrenaline and cortisol (stimulating hormones) and less melatonin (the sleepy hormone) pumping through your body, it is harder to not only fall asleep but also to stay asleep through the night. If your child is up several times a night or rises before the sun, take a look at the timing of bedtime for sure!
3. Early bedtimes = more restorative sleep
The most restorative period of sleep occurs in the hours before midnight. Humans sleep in cycles ranging from light sleep to deep sleep. We cycle through various stages of light and deep sleep all night long, but our longest deep-sleep cycles happen earlier in the night. It is during these deep-sleep stages where our brains are replacing vital cells, repairing muscles, and releasing growth hormones.
Deep sleep occurs only at certain parts of the night regardless of what time we get into bed. While a child who goes to bed later may still get the same number of hours as a child who goes to bed at 7:00 p.m., they’ll be getting much less of that wonderfully delicious, deep sleep than their early-to-bed counterparts. Putting your child down earlier in the evening will ensure they get as much of that rich, good-quality sleep as possible.
4. Early bedtimes will help ensure you are meeting your child’s sleep needs
Most children from infancy through adolescence need about 10-12 hours of sleep each night. Oftentimes, children who go to bed later don’t actually sleep in much later than 7:00 or 8:00 a.m. simply due to circadian rhythm patterns. The ability to “sleep in” does not actually develop until later in childhood/adolescence. Therefore, an early bedtime of between 7:00-8:00 p.m. will ensure that your child has all the time they need to get plenty of quality overnight sleep.
5. Early bedtimes mean a more relaxing and peaceful evening for YOU!
And perhaps most importantly, when you get your child to bed before 8:00 p.m., the night is yours! Catch up on your favorite TV show with your partner, take a relaxing bath, or head to bed early yourself! Not only will your child be more well-rested, you will be too!
If bedtime is a battle in your house, take a deep breath and let’s connect. We can make your evenings peaceful once again!