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An Early Bedtime Might Be Just What Your Child Needs

Early Bedtime
Stephanie Nielsen

Stephanie Nielsen

As a #girlmom with 3 young girls, I LOVE an early bedtime. They go to bed and then 7:30-9:30 is my time to read, watch tv and fold my never-ending pile of laundry and I mean NEVER ending. I know that my kids need that early bedtime because we are an active family and I know that it’s healthy for them. Kids need a lot of sleep!  

When working with any of our sleep consultants, we will typically suggest an early bedtime. Most often this is much earlier than what most parents are used to!  

Why Do We Suggest An Early Bedtime?

When parents come to us, their entire family is normally chronically overtired. An early bedtime can help your child meet their sleep needs. It also helps your little one from going down overtired, which can have a downward spiral affect.

Getting healthy, consolidated sleep can help with many sleep problems that we typically see parents come to us with, including…

  • Night wakings – if your little one goes down overtired, they are more likely to have many night wakings. An early bedtime can help prevent these night wakings.
  • Restless sleep – if your child goes down overtired, it usually results in more restless sleep.
  • Early morning wakings – again, if your child goes down to bed overtired, they are more likely to have an early morning wake up, before 6 am.
  • Improving naps – if your little one is a captain cat napper, an earlier bedtime and meeting your child’s overnight sleep needs, can also help to lengthen nap duration and improve nap quality

The Biggest Early Bedtime Myth

When we tell exhausted parents that a temporary 5:30 – 6:00 pm bedtime will help, their eyes bug out and we often hear:

If I put my baby to bed earlier then they will wake up early!”

This isn’t true!

We aren’t making this up! We see it every day with our sleep consulting clients and there have been scientific studies that tout the benefits of an early bedtime.

“Infants who fell asleep earlier also slept longer at night. Keeping infants up later in hopes of them sleeping longer may be counterproductive.”

Adams, Savage, Master and Buxton, published in Sleep Medicine (2020)

The study found that as newborns age to infants, sleep onset (when children fall asleep) was earlier and bedtime routines became shorter. 

Yes! Bring on the early bedtime! 

How Much Sleep Do Kids Need?

Every child varies, but most children need the following:

How much sleep do children need

Dr. Marc Weissbluth, author of best-selling sleep book, Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child, says that an earlier bedtime will allow your child to sleep later. And a bedtime that is too late will event cause a wake up time that is too early.

I know this sounds confusing, but perhaps you’ve heard the term sleep begets sleep? The more your child sleeps, the more sleep they’ll want. Isn’t logical, it’s biological!

Dr. Weissbluth also states that an early bedtime means that your child will wake up well rested and is better able to nap. Think of an early bedtime and consolidated night sleep as prerequisites for good naps. 

What Other Benefits Can Come From An Early Bedtime & Healthy Sleep Habits? 

Decreased Likelihood Of Obesity

A study conducted by Anders, Andridge, Whitaker published in The Journal of Pediatrics titled Bedtime in Preschool aged Children and Risk for Adolescent Obesity concluded that Preschool aged children with early weekday bedtimes were one-half as likely as children with late bedtimes to be obese as adolescents. They found that children who went to bed after 8:00 pm were more likely to be obese than those who went to bed at 8:00 pm or earlier. 

Behavior Regulation

In a study published in the Journal of Pediatrics, they found that poor toddler age sleep schedules were found to predict behavioral problems during primary school age years. Healthy, regular sleep habits appear to be important for young children’s healthy development. 

Increased Immunity

Meeting our sleep needs, helps both children and adults to stay healthy. A lack of sleep makes us more susceptible to illness. Our immune system is suppressed when we are not getting adequate sleep, making us more likely to catch any virus we are exposed to. 

In fact, after even just one night of partial sleep loss (<5 hours), the white blood cells that protect against infectious diseases and foreign invaders are reduced by up to 70 percent. Woah!

And this is from a single night of poor sleep. Just imagine how chronic sleep deprivation can affect overall health and vitality! 

Alone Time For Parents

This isn’t a child health benefit, but an early bedtime can definitely be a benefit for you too! Connection time, NetFlix time, work on your favorite hobby…the options are endless when you get back those precious hours for self-care!

What Can You Do? 

Here are the first steps to creating healthy sleep habits:

  • Keep a consistent bedtime and keep it on the early side. For babies and toddlers, the ideal regular bedtime is in between 6:30 – 7:30 pm.
  • If your child is overtired, you may need to try an even earlier bedtime for a few days to see if that helps sleep challenges.
  • Create the ideal sleep environment for your child, ensuring the room is cool (68-72), dark and you are playing consistent white noise
  • Establish a consistent, connecting bedtime routine 

If you have more questions or need help with your child’s sleep, please reach out! We’d love to help you develop healthy sleep habits for your child. 

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