Our kids’ first birthday is a big deal at our house, but it’s not because cake-smashing is our favorite activity. While we love getting to bathe a child encased in chocolate, what we’re really excited about is the magic that happens for our kids at age one: they finally start sleeping better at night. Because then all of us sleep better – and our health improves dramatically.
Have you ever met someone who wished their kid wouldn’t sleep? Um, no. Because sleep is awesome, right? And science is finally confirming some long-held parenting biases – to the point that moms (and dads) everywhere are finally vindicated by what science finally has to say on the subject of early kids bedtime. Okay, so we’re also a little baffled that somebody spent good money to study this, but whatever.
A version of this post was originally published on Perfection Pending and is republished here with permission.
An Early Kids Bedtime is Good for Everyone
Between 2004 and 2009, researchers in Australia tracked thousands of families’ sleep habits, as well as their physical and mental states of well-being.
Kids with bedtimes before 8:30 PM were happier and healthier. And so were the rest of their families. Not only were the family members physically healthier and happier, they were also mentally and emotionally better off.
And you know what? Those results match the 2004 National Sleep Study Poll results. They found that kids who went to bed by 9 PM had significantly fewer sleep problems, got better sleep, and had an overall better sleep hygiene.
Our Kids Go to Bed Earlier than their Friends
Through trial and error, we quickly discovered that our kids require an early bedtime. How early? Well, for our littlest kids that’s 6:30 PM. For our school-aged kids, they’re in bed by 8 PM. I’m just glad they haven’t started asking their friends about bedtimes, because I already have. And our kids are pretty much always the first ones to sleep each night.
But you know what? It’s what our kids need. They need a full night of sleep to be functional, friendly people. When they go to bed late, we’re in for several days of cranky, whiny, and entitled behavior – and earlier bedtimes. Going to an event isn’t worth that, so I’m pretty sure our neighbors think we’re total homebodies. Okay, so we are. But it’s also so our kids can develop good sleep patterns and sleep hygiene. And be pleasant the next morning.
I’ve had family and friends ask me if we couldn’t just shift their whole sleep routine, letting them sleep in each morning. Um, I’ve tried it. It triggers a sleep regression. And it doesn’t matter what I do – these kids are up by 6:30 AM. Well, unless they’re sick. But that doesn’t count.
Others have recommended that I let my kids nap so they can stay up later. Again, it doesn’t work. My kids quit napping by 18 months, despite my best efforts.
And others casually remark that their husband (or partner) doesn’t get home early enough, so they have to have a later bedtime so that their kids have other-parent time. Nope. Doesn’t work for us. In fact, my husband shifted his schedule – so that he’s going to work before the kids are up. That way, he can spend time with them when he gets home from work – and before they go to bed.
We’re lucky – I know that not everyone has the luxury to switch their work schedule to accommodate bedtimes. But in our household, bedtime is stinking SACRED.
Because We Need that Time, too
Having the time each night? Y’all, it’s amazing. It’s essential. And it’s what rejuvenates us for the next day. After the kids are in bed, we’re able to juggle time for each other, projects, binge-watching Netflix, or just laying in bed so we can read a book.
And because we’ve got that time to unwind and prepare for the next day, we’re actually going to bed at a decent hour. Maybe 10:00 PM is early for you, but those couple extra hours of sleep make all the difference in my energy levels throughout the week.
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Because you know what? Having the energy to be present, to parent with love and logic, and to help my kids solve their own problems has been a huge shift from the survival mode of parenting small children. I’m happier, healthier, and excited for each day. And I don’t mean just physically – but also mentally, emotionally, and spiritually.
Life is so much better with a good night’s sleep, y’all.
So thank you, science, for studying the obvious – that we all need earlier bedtimes. Because I’m sure one day I’ll reference your conclusions for the early bedtimes – as will countless of other moms who need a bedtime break already.