“No! I’m playing! One more book!” scream your children as you try and institute those bedtime rituals you’ve been told are important. But why are those rituals important? In addition to your children’s (loud) voices maybe the thought that it’s selfish to put your children to sleep even before the sun tucks in for the evening. You may tell yourself that you should want to spend more time with your children and that you are not entitled to adult time as a parent. But what may be surprising to realize is that not only do you deserve that time – both you and your child benefit from it.
How much sleep does my child need?
Children need more sleep than most people may realize. The University of Michigan recommends between 13.5 and 16 hours for children 3 years old and younger. Once children reach 5 years of age 11 hours of sleep is desirable until age 10 (not changing until age 16). With schools now starting at such an early hour, it is getting increasingly difficult for children to get so much sleep. For example, in order to get up at 6:00 am for the day, teenagers would have to go to bed at around 7-8 pm in order to get the optimal amount of sleep! Without this sleep, grades and academic performance will likely suffer. The brain is not able to engage in learning new material without sufficient rest.
Can they ever stay up late?
Long summer nights call for later play times, movie nights, sleepovers, and vacations; it is even easier to slip into later bedtimes and even to nix bedtime routine altogether. But academic performance is not the only thing that suffers from exhaustion. Emotional and behavioral wellbeing is threatened without the proper amount of sleep. The ability to emotionally regulate diminishes as tiredness sets in. However, this does not mean eliminating those fun late nights altogether. A healthy balance is key.
Why parents need that time
Another benefit of putting your children to bed early is that you get time to yourself. This is not selfish. Maintaining your own well-being is the absolute best thing you can do for your child. Have you ever flown on an airplane? Remember the safety orientation provided just before take-off. The directions are to put your oxygen mask on first in the case of an emergency. Although your first instinct may be to try and help others – especially your own children, you are no good to anyone else if you are suffocating yourself. So, don’t suffocate. Recharge your batteries, spend time with your partner. Having that time to reset, build energy, and prepare for the next day is important for you and your children.
When should I seek help?
As a therapist working with children exhibiting behavior or emotional difficulties, I typically review each child’s sleep patterns as my first area of assessment. It can be an easy fix to some of the most frustrating or severe difficulties your child may exhibit. However, if your children’s behaviors require more than adding extra hours into their sleep, or even if you need help instituting that nightly bedtime routine, contact a professional. A therapist specializing in working with children at Great Lakes Psychology Group can conduct a formal assessment and provide suggestions or ongoing therapy services if needed. Early intervention is key in finding a solution and getting the best outcome for your child’s emotional well-being.