One of the biggest issues most parents face — with complete dread — is bedtime. And whether your kids go to sleep at 6 p.m. or 9 p.m. there is no right time… as long as mom and dad are getting a full night sleep too. So what’s the best time for your child to go to bed?
Like everything else in parenting, there isn’t a perfect answer to this question, so we asked an expert. Chicago-based pediatrician Dr. Erica Attanasio, DO, is also a mom of two who happens to know a thing or two about sleep, and just how important it is that our kids get a good dose of it every night.
Wetpaint Moms: How should parents go about setting a bedtime for kids?
Dr. Attanasio: I believe that one of the biggest mistakes people make with infants is that they expect their bedtime to be what one would consider appropriate, like 7:00 p.m. At that age, you can expect to get one long stretch of sleep in a 24-hour period [approximately 5–6 hours], so you should consider putting the child down around 11 or 12 “for the night” so the long stretch of sleep benefits you as well. As they get older, most children have an internal clock that suggests bedtime be anywhere from 6 to 9 p.m.
When should parents consider dropping a child’s nap if it doesn’t happen naturally?
When bedtime starts to become a struggle with more and more procrastinations, it’s time to address the nap. Typically, that means making the nap earlier and/or cutting it off after no more than an hour. Kids might be crabby when they wake up but eventually [they will be] okay and bedtime will go smoother. However if you can push them through the afternoon and get them in bed super early [around 6 p.m.], it’s better to just skip the nap completely. Kids will most likely get to this point late in their third year or early in their fourth, however some kids do still nap until kindergarten.
What should parents with kids close in age do about bedtime? Do you let one kid stay up and put the other to bed or should they share a bedtime?
If siblings are close enough in age that reading books, which I think is an important bedtime ritual, can be shared, then doing it together is okay. However, as they get older, and different books are appealing, or they are reading out loud as they are learning to read, individual bedtime is important, especially because it is also a great time for good talks with your kids. In the end you have to do what works for your schedule, your family, and your life.
We want to know what you think: What time is bedtime in your house? Does everyone have a different bedtime? Tell us in the comments below!