Bed-Timing – The Easiest Fix to your Bedtime Battles

It has been a few weeks longer than I meant to let pass before another post, but things got really busy for me when I wasn’t really expecting!  Thanks to Colleen Cosgrove and the Chronicle Herald!

There are a bunch of topics that I want to write about to provide parents with help, and this one really is the easiest fix to most bedtime battles!

The timing of your child’s bedtime.

You’ve probably read elsewhere that sleep begets more sleep.  Almost every sleep book I’ve read says something along those lines, and yet there’s still a lot of children that tend to have bedtimes much later than what most sleep texts recommend.  With the exception of Ferber’s Solve Your Child’s Sleep Problems, most of the other books recommend an earlier bedtime when implementing a new sleep training routine.  Eventually, Ferber’s text does recommend moving the bedtime earlier once your child starts to comply with bedtime rituals/routines. Just about all the books that I have read recommend bedtime for babies to pre-school aged children be between 6:00 to 8:00 pm.  I still have a bit of a laugh when I suggest these bedtimes as goals for parents at workshops and they’re shocked!  I believe it’s partly because they don’t believe that they’re child will actually go to sleep at that time, partly because they’re exciting about having alone time with their partner, or to catch up on work, and maybe also partly because our busy schedules make us feel guilty about not spending enough quality time with our kids, so we let them stay up later than they should.  A common problem I find with the families that I have worked with is that bedtime is too late, and while it isn’t always the only issue, it often plays a huge part in making up the sleep debt.  Here’s a couple reasons why:

1.  How much sleep should my baby be getting?

This is just a general recommendation.  Many Sleep texts suggest similar hours, or disagree by a couple hours or so.  Keep in mind this is just a general recommendation, and some children will tend to require more or less than what is listed below.

sleep hours

2. Sleep Stages and when we’re going to get the most restorative amount of sleep.

If you understand that deeper sleep occurs normally during the first half of the night, then it makes sense to understand that if we tack on time to this part of the sleep period, we’re less likely to have interruption and more restorative sleep because there are fewer periods of shallow sleep and therefore less risk of interruption due to arousals. Figures showing what typical sleep stages are cycled through during the night can be viewed here and here.Very rarely does offering an earlier bedtime result in a super early wake up time.  If anything, it really only solidifies the saying that sleep begets more sleep.

So based on the bedtime battles you’re having, if you’re really finding that your child is waking up much too early, or experiencing multiple wake up times at night, or is just plain tired during the day, compare the amount of sleep that your child is getting to the above recommendations.  If you’re finding you’re child is getting no where close to the above recommendations, then offer your child an earlier bedtime and try to make up for the sleep debt!