It is no secret that I love my bed and my girls are very similiar but what time should a child go to bed? Parenting experts and grandmas might have differing opinions, but the best bedtime for a child is one that allows her to wake up on time feeling rested and happy.
How Much Sleep do Children Need?
Children need more sleep the younger they are, with newborns sleeping on and off throughout the day and night. According to The Baby Sleep Book [Little, Brown & Co, 2005] by Dr. Sears, children need the different amounts of sleep at different ages. Dr. Sears recommends:
Age 0-3 months, 14-18 hours of sleep
Age 3-6 months, 14-16 hours
Age 6 months-2 years, 12-14 hours,
Age 2-5 years, 10-12 hours.
Of course, there is a wide natural variation between individual children, but these figures can act as a guideline along with an individual child’s behavior. If a child is hard to wake in the morning or has frequent tantrums at the end of the day these behaviors might be caused by lack of sleep.
What Time Should My Child Go to Bed?
From the amount of sleep an individual child needs based on her behavior and age, the most appropriate bedtime can be worked out next. If mornings involve waking up to an alarm clock and getting out of the house to get to school or daycare on time, then work out first how much time is needed for the morning routine to go smoothly. Then, count backwards the number of hours a child needs to be well rested to find out the best bedtime for that child.
Family Routines Can Affect Bedtimes
Bedtimes can be pushed earlier or later to suit family needs, although the more a parent relies on the child’s natural sleep cues the easier bedtime will be. If children are allowed to stay up late to play with mom or dad who works long hours and returns home late in the evening, they will need to sleep later in the morning to make up for the lost time. Likewise, if a child sleeps late in the morning he will tend to remain wakeful until later at night as well. The key to finding a bedtime that suits the entire family is searching for the balance where the child is well rested and also has time together with the family, whether that is early in the morning or in the evening.
Children need different amounts of sleep, but ensuring that a child has an age-appropriate bedtime will help her feel better during the day, pay more attention in school and avoid behavior problems related to sleep deprivation. Whether a family is early to bed or night owls, agreeing on an age-appropriate bedtime requires cooperation from the whole family.
As for parents, get as much sleep as you can!