Your Child’s Sleep Needs & Ideal Bedtime

sleep needs and ideal bedtime
Christine Brown

Christine Brown

As a certified child sleep consultant, I am asked a lot about the best bedtime for babies and children. Right after that is how many hours of slumber children need each day to meet their sleep needs. 

It makes sense that parents want to make sure that they are providing their children with adequate rest – SLEEP IS SO IMPORTANT!  The benefits to both children and parents are countless – mood and cognitive, behavioral, emotional and physical. Well-rested kids are normally happy and healthy. Who doesn’t want that for their children?

Why is bedtime so important?

Our bodies have an internal clock that is dictated by the sun and tells us when it is time to eat and sleep, as well as other body processes. (a.k.a. circadian rhythms) If we have the right timing, it is much easier for children to doze off and have better quality sleep.

If we move bedtime too early, we run the risk of our child not having enough sleep pressure built. This results in our child becoming frustrated with being sent to bed before they are able to doze off.  This can be a cause of your child taking 30+ minutes to fall asleep.

A more common challenge is parents overestimating the amount of time that their children can be awake. This results in a bedtime that’s too late. A common sleep myth is “if I put my baby to bed later, they’ll sleep later.” That would be logical, right?  But it isn’t logical, it’s biological!  Putting your littles to bed too late can result in a series of challenges. Trust me on this one!

Late Bedtime Challenges:

#1 Trouble Falling Asleep

Once children cross from tired to overtired, the body goes into fight or flight mode. When this happens, the body produces cortisol, which is a stress hormone.  Imagine the feeling of getting a second wind and trying to lay down to sleep…impossible, right?  Children often fight bedtime or cry when they are put down for bed too late.

#2 Restless Sleep and Waking in the Night

That same cortisol rush that made dozing so difficult at bedtime will also result in restless sleep and more night wakings.  This rest isn’t as restorative.

#3 Super early wake time

Have you heard the expression that ‘sleep begets sleep’?  The more slumber your child gets, the more they will want to sleep, whereas a late bedtime can result in an early wake time.

#4 The trifecta

All of the challenges above all result in less overall sleep.  Children with later bedtimes overall get less slumber and they don’t normally make up for it with naps or sleeping in.

Using the chart below will give you a really good indication of your child’s sleep needs and an age appropriate bedtime for them.

Sleep Needs and Bedtime by Age Chart:

For bedtimes, you’ll notice a range.  When children miss naps or take a short nap, they will likely need a bedtime on the earlier end of the spectrum.  Also, each child’s sleep needs are different. If you know your child needs more slumber, stick with an earlier bedtime.  If your child is perfectly happy around dinnertime and if they are meeting their needs, they may be ok staying up closer to the later end of the spectrum. In the late afternoon, keep an on on your little one for signs of fussiness, crankiness or hyperactivity. If you see these signs, your little one is likely overtired and would benefit from an earlier bedtime.

If you and your child are struggling to get the right schedule and enough to meet their needs, please reach out today so you can learn more about working with the Bella Luna Team.  Also, check out our reviews on Facebook!

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