Bedtimes: Bumping Up Your Child’s Bedtime

There are a few children who, from the start, love bedtime and actually look forward to soft pajamas, goodnight kisses and snuggling into the safe haven of their beds. Most kids, however, push for a little extra free time when mom and dad call for “lights out.” How do you know when your child is ready for a later bedtime? Here are a few tips to help you make the call:

  • Be familiar with the recommended sleep requirements for the different ages of child development. According to the National Sleep Foundation, children ages 1-3 typically need between 12-14 hours of sleep per day. Those ages 3-6 need around 10-12 hours, with that number dropping to between 10-11 hours for 7-12 year-olds. Teens need a minimum of 8-9 hours of sleep each night.
  • Understand that every child is different. There are a number of factors that influence the amount of sleep your child really needs, including family schedules and napping habits. Don’t rely too heavily on any one specific formula to determine what your child needs to feel well and be alert during the day.
  • Take adjustments in baby steps. Instead of pushing bedtime forward a full hour; try a change of just half an hour, or even fifteen minutes. If your child responds well to the small adjustment, you can move forward another step in a week or so. On the flipside, if you start to notice that your child is not as well-rested, it’s easier to back up to the old bedtime if they haven’t become accustomed to so much extra free time in the evening.
  • Watch for signs of sleep problems in your children. Daytime sleepiness, crankiness and even trouble falling asleep can signal that your child isn’t getting the quality and quantity of rest he needs. However, if your child seems fully alert and energetic during the day and still wants to put off bedtime, it may be time to give him that extra half-hour.
  • Keep a regular family sleep schedule so that these things can be more accurately assessed. If your family has no regular routine, it may be impossible to tell which bedtime is best for your children. The key to success is consistency.
  • Remember that sleep isn’t just an arbitrary thing that your child does each day. Quality sleep has a significant impact on short-term and long-term health and cognitive development. Ensuring that your child gets adequate rest—even when they protest—is good parenting.

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