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Are your children getting to bed early enough?

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Are your children getting to bed early enough?

What science has to say about when your kids should hit the hay.


Every year following the winter break, my kids (and I) have to go through an intense detox. I’m not talking about a juice cleanse or any of those other New Year’s resolution-style detoxes, I’m talking about just weaning off the mayhem of the holidays.

We detox off sugar because eating candy for three meals a day really isn’t a long-term diet. We detox off attention because once grandma and the cousins are gone, it’s just me, and I’m not running a one-woman carnival here. And we detox off late nights because that alarm clock is going off bright and early for school.

That last one is proving difficult this year after two weeks of sleepovers with cousins and a general absence of routine. And my kids, never wanting to miss a chance to negotiate, are wondering if maybe it’s time to push back their bedtimes.

So, I’ve been crunching the numbers based on recommendations by the American Academy of Sleep Medicine (that’s right, I brought out the science).

The group recommends:

• Infants get 12-16 hours a day of sleep (including naps)

• Children 1-2 years of age sleep 11-14 hours (including naps)

• Children 3-5 years old get 10-13 hours

• Children 6-12 need 9-12 hours of sleep

• Teenagers up to age 18 sleep 8-10 hours

According to those numbers, my school-age children’s 8:30 p.m. and 8:50 p.m. bedtimes are just about right.

Of course, that is just the time they are in bed, and not the time they actually fall asleep. We can’t forget about last-minute water breaks, bathroom runs, mysterious bumps and lumps that need immediate diagnosing and the perennial favorite: I saw a shadow move in the hallway and can’t sleep ever again.

Who knows how much actual sleep my children are getting. So, I went searching for more info that specifically addressed the bedtime situation.

Then, I found the “Growing Up in Australia” study that came out a few years ago. Basically, the study found that children who go to bed earlier (asleep by 8:30 p.m.) have better health-related quality of life, and their mothers have improved mental health when the children are about 7 years old. These health benefits for mom and child were seen regardless of when the children woke up.

This may not be news to many of you moms out there. Earlier bedtime = mom’s sanity. But this is science, people. Science.

So I went back to my children, equipped with my research to tell them the hard truth: Bedtime will not be changing. I’ve got their quality of life to think about, after all, not to mention my own mental health. What choice do I have?

Don’t argue with me, little ones, argue with science. You’ll thank me one day. No, no you probably won’t, but that’s OK. The sound of a sleeping house by 9 p.m. is all the thanks I need. Well, except for the kid who forgot a drink of water. And the one who heard a weird clunk-clunk noise. Or the baby who woke up when his sister was investigating the clunking.

But then, silence. Sleep. Sanity.

Science for the win.

How do you decide bedtimes in your house?
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