In Defense of Early Bedtimes

Dear Andrea,

I know you always recommend an early bedtime.  I’ve heard that 7PM or earlier is optimal for my one year old.  The problem is that I don’t get home from work and daycare pickup until 6 and my husband gets home at 7:30 or 8.  If we put the baby to bed at 7 we’ll hardly see him during the week!!!Eleanor

Hi Eleanor,

This is SUCH a common dilemma for families these days.  Life in 2017 is simply not family-friendly.  Little bodies biologically are programmed to go to sleep early- even as early as 5:30 or 6.  Fifty years ago, this would not have been an issue!  Working parents were home by 5, so families could eat together and get kids into bed at a biologically appropriate time.  Nowadays, a 12-hour workday is the norm and families are running on empty.  Tired parents pick up kids from daycare and rush through “quality time” with grumpy and/or hyper kids.  Then the kids are too overtired to go to sleep, so the entire evening is spent in a battle.

I promise you this: one hour of actual quality time with a well-rested, happy child is worth a million times more than four hours of struggling with an overtired child.

Sleep-deprived children may:

  • Wake frequently

  • Wake early

  • Have difficultly falling asleep

  • Be hyperactive

  • Have decreased or increased appetite

  • Be restless

  • Fall asleep on short car rides or at inappropriate times

  • Be defiant and have mood swings

  • Be irritable

Well-rested children, on the other hand, may:

  • Be more alert

  • Have regular sleep schedules and cycles.

  • Wake naturally

  • Be better able to self-regulate

  • Have an easier time falling and staying asleep

  • Have a more even mood and temperament

  • Have longer attention spans

  • Have fewer behavior problems

The thing about early bedtime is that it’s the OPTIMAL time for their bodies to relax and slow down.  There is no other time of day when they will more easily feel and listen to the drive to sleep.  The farther they get from that optimal window, the harder it is for them to relax and sleep.

Bedtime is also the only time when babies and kids can “make-up” for lost sleep.  You can’t make them sleep later or nap longer, but you do have some control over bedtime.  If your child is overtired or has a sleep debt, early bedtime is even more essential.

If you’re still feeling reluctant- just try it.  Give it two or three weeks and see what happens.  I can almost guarantee that you will feel the benefits.  You may have fewer hours together, but he hours you have will be with a happy, well-rested child!  Everyone wins!!

Love and Rest,

Andrea

Samantha LaBarbaraSleep