As a parent, getting your little one to bed at the same time each night can seem like a huge chore. However, establishing an early bedtime routine has many benefits that will help ensure that your baby or toddler has a good night’s sleep and that you have some much needed downtime at the end of the day. Let’s discuss why setting an early bedtime is so important and how you can make it happen.
The Benefits of an Early Bedtime
One of the most important benefits of establishing an early bedtime for your infant is better sleep quality. Studies show that kids who go to bed earlier get more sleep overall and wake up later. Later bedtimes generally make for early morning wake ups. Keeping a consistent sleep schedule helps to regulate your kiddos body clock and allows them to get into a pattern that keeps them from becoming overtired or overstimulated. This also allows them to get into deeper, more restorative stages of sleep which helps their brains process and retain information better as they grow.
Many kids these days simply don’t get enough sleep. According to surveys conducted by the National Sleep Foundation, about 30 percent of kids under 11, and more than half of teenagers, get less sleep at night than is recommended. And even though many sleep experts suggest that young kids go to bed between 6 and 8 p.m., half of American toddlers and preschoolers, and 64 percent of kids in first through fifth grades, go to bed AFTER 9 p.m. This wreaks havoc on kids brains and their overall mental health.
If you’ve got a toddler or a toddler AND a baby in your house then backing up dinner time to 5 or 5:30 is also generally necessary to get kids in bed at a decent hour. Most babies and toddlers operate on a 7-7 ish routine so know that you will have to adjust YOUR routines to help your baby get the quality rest he needs. If you work outside the home doing meal prep on the weekends so you’ve got dinner ready to go, goes a LONG way in keeping bedtime on track and lowering the mess and stress around dinnertime with young kids.
An early bedtime may also have benefits beyond its direct impact on sleep duration. “WHEN a child sleeps is probably as important or maybe more important as how much,” explains pediatrician Marc Weissbluth, author of the best-selling book Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child. That’s because the sleep that happens earlier in the night tends to be more restorative than sleep that takes place later at night and in the early morning. So putting your kids to bed early may ensure that a higher proportion of her sleep is the extra-restful kind. This goes for parents too! When you have babies and toddlers in the house going to bed early will ensure YOU wake up refreshed in the morning too.
Weissbluth agrees that the ideal bedtime varies by child; a good way to tell if your child is going to bed too late, he says, is by watching his behavior between 4 and 6 p.m. (if he’s a toddler or preschooler) or between 5 and 7 p.m. (if he’s older). Is he alert, playful, and fun to be around? Or is he edgy and irritable? (If he’s in daycare or has a nanny, ask his caregiver.) If he’s grumpy, he may need to go to bed earlier or possibly still needs a nap in the afternoon. One simple experiment Weissbluth recommends if you’re not sure: Try putting your child to bed 20 minutes earlier for a few nights and watch what happens. If he falls asleep easily, then chances are he or she should be going to bed earlier. Make sure, too, that you’re limiting television and smartphone use before bed. Research suggests a strong link between evening screen time and sleep problems.
Studies have also shown that what time a child goes to bed is closely linked to how much he or she sleeps., Multiple studies have found that kids who go to bed later take longer to fall asleep than kids who go to sleep earlier; they also wake up more frequently in the middle of the night, then don’t sleep late enough to make up for their deficit. This greatly impacts their overall mood and disposition during the day, not to mention ability to focus once they’re in school.
You can also establish calming cues like dimming lights, reading stories, or singing lullabies which will signal sleepy time every evening and create positive associations with going to bed.
The earlier you can get your child to bed, the better it will be for their emotional and physical health in later life. Children who have an earlier bedtime established as a routine earlier in life often have improved sleep habits compared with those that stay up late or wake early. This healthy habit leads to more stable moods as they grow up as well as healthy dietary and wellness habits! Kids who get adequate sleep for their age have lower rates of depression and better regulation over their emotions,
A Consistent Routine
The holidays are sneaking up on us and we all have so many friends and family members to buy gifts for. I’m absolutely guilty of knowing in the back of my mind that the shopping task is there, but I’m dragging my feet on actually getting it done and end up waiting until the last possible minute. We can do the exact same thing with our child’s sleep routine. Instead of making a plan ahead of time, we just get the task of putting the baby down finally done when it’s down to the wire and absolutely necessary — usually when the fussiness begins. However, by settling an earlier bedtime, you will have more confidence and energy to make it happen. Although your child may push back against your boundary, they will actually thrive when you hold the boundary in place. Having a bedtime routine for your baby or toddler creates security and makes pre bedtime feel familiar and safe to your child.
That All-Important Me-Time
We all know that parents are busy, and going to bed at the end of the day having allocated NO time to fill your OWN cup is a huge drain on you physically and emotionally. If you gain back a little extra time in the evening—not to mention during night or morning hours—you are able to enjoy more personal time while also getting better rest for yourself! This means your energy level will be higher when it comes time to be a parent tomorrow morning too. Sounds like a win/win situation to me!
Making It Happen
It takes some prioritzing and consistency but establishing an early bedtime routine for your baby or toddler isn’t as hard as it seems! You can start by setting a fixed time for them to go down each night and then work your way backwards- just 10-30 minutes before their regular bed time may be enough to start – then stick with it every single night. Remember a natural bedtime for babies 3 months and up is between 6-8pm. To make this easier, try taking away distractions like TVs or tablets at least one hour and ideally 2 hours before bed so that their minds begin winding down naturally. Letting your child look at screens right before bed is going to result in a child who cannot go to sleep easily.
Having an established early bedtime routine for your infant or toddler ensures that they get quality sleep and allows you some much-needed ‘me-time’ in the evenings! This greatly helps restore your sanity after a long day! With patience and consistency, you can create a calming environment where your little one feels safe and secure while sleeping soundly throughout the night – giving both parents and babies something to look forward to!
So why not give it a try? I can promise you, a baby or toddler down by 7 or 8pm is a game changer for both kiddo and parents! Imagine having 1-2 hours in the evening to decompress and relax. It truly end up being a win win for everyone in your family. This one simple shift in your day truly makes for a happier parent by days end.
If you’re finding the process of establishing an early bedtime or good sleep habits for your family extremely daunting and need some support, I can help! Reach out and we can schedule a sleep consultation fit for your budget and specific needs.