SorryNotSorry Grown Ups: A Consistent Bedtime Is Best For You, Too. Here’s Why.
I always advise my clients not to let their children sleep late on weekends and vacations, no matter how delicious it feels.
There’s accumulating evidence that the same is true for adults – that a consistent bedtime and morning wake time actually reduces the risk of heart disease.
One study showed that varying your bedtime and the amount you sleep each night increases your risk of plaque in your arteries. The effect was especially pronounced in those whose sleep varied by more than 2 hours per night.
Another study showed that adults with erratic sleep schedules had twice the risk of heart disease versus those who did not.
A third study showed an increased risk of mood disorders as well as high blood pressure and high cholesterol. (As a former NICU nurse who worked overnights 3-4 times a week, I am not at all surprised to hear about the impact on mood. Going home at 8 am to sleep away a beautiful Saturday was certainly depressing. But this impacts even those with much less dramatic sleep schedules.)
The American Heart Association now asks for sleep duration in calculating risk of cardiovascular disease.
Apart from cardiovascular reasons, you will also feel better if you keep a regular sleep schedule, no matter how ludicrous that sounds. See, when you sleep late one day, you have social jet lag the next, which makes Monday morning that much more painful when it rolls around.
So, see, parents, your young children are actually doing you a favor by waking you up early on weekends.
You can repay the favor by waking them up early when they reach their adolescent years.
If you'd love to get your whole family sleeping more reasonable hours, schedule a free consult today. You can feel amazing in 2 weeks or less, guaranteed.
Lots of parents say to me that they haven’t committed to sleep training because they want to have spontaneity and freedom. They don’t want to commit to a schedule.
How do you feel at 3 am when you are up for the third time? You have committed to that schedule by not committing to a nap and bedtime schedule. Is it serving you? Your child? The rest of your family?
What if you knew you had 2.5 hours off during every single day? Would that be a hardship? Would you hate being able to take a shower, return phone calls, place a grocery order, or even watch Netflix?
It’s true that you’d have to have your free time at home. You couldn’t choose to take it in a different location each day.
But you could sit still. Or even… lie down on your very own couch. Close your eyes for a few minutes.
You know how people say the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result?
You won’t get a different result with your child’s sleep if you don’t make some changes. And it’s true that you will give up some things – freedom to go out at a moment’s notice.
But most of those reluctant parents forget that they get something else in return – a different sort of freedom. A freedom to have a scheduled break every single day. The freedom to sleep through the night (because a well-rested baby on a predictable nap schedule is much more likely to sleep through the night). The freedom to relax in the evenings, knowing you have 11 hours before you have to parent again. The freedom to connect with your other loved ones, knowing your brain is much more capable of love when it’s getting the rest and the breaks it needs. The freedom to exercise, knowing your body has energy to burn when its getting the rest it needs.
I was a parent who planned to be home for every single nap, even when it was my second child and it meant limiting excursions for my older child. As a single parent, she didn’t have the option to stay out without me, either, unless I hired a babysitter for one of them. With the cost of chidlcare in NYC, that was an extremely rare treat.
But we quickly adjusted our expectations of how much we could accomplish in a day, and soon learned to relish the scheduled breaks in our day. I was actually worried we would be tired when we switched to only one nap a day for my little one… but that, too, worked out just fine. And now that she’s outgrown her nap entirely, we still plan to be home for quiet time – we all need it. Me too. Moving to Mexico has helped me remember that the quality of my life -- and my children's lives -- are higher when I try to accomplish less.
So give it a shot. Try a nap schedule for a month and see if your quality of life isn’t better, too. If you don’t love it, you can always switch back.
Not sure what the ideal sleep schedule should look like for your child? Schedule a free discovery call and let’s discuss.
***Prices go up January 1 so don't delay.... but you have the flexibility to commit now and get coached later.
Poor little Elian looks miserable because, well, he is.
He fell asleep in the car at 4 pm and woke up after 5.
No doubt he needed the sleep, but the problem is that the timing was all wrong.
You know how you adult feel terrible if you take a nap at 5 pm? Cranky and groggy and miserable?
That’s how Elian was feeling too. Because the timing was off.
Our bodies produce melatonin at predictable times. For a two-year-old like Elian, his body produces melatonin the middle of the night and again in the early evening.
When we sleep at those times, we generally fall asleep easily and wake up easily (assuming we don’t have other sleep issues, of course). So a toddler who naps in the middle of the day should wake up fairly cheerfully.
When we sleep at the wrong times, we feel terrible.
I didn’t know this when my daughter, Calliope, was a toddler. I loved having long mornings to do things so I would put her down around 2 pm for her nap. And I couldn’t understand why she was waking up absolutely hysterical a couple of hours later. There was nothing I could do to coax her out of it. It was at least 30-minutes of kicking and screaming from my otherwise super chill toddler. It was horrible.
So sticking to a strict naptime schedule may be inconvenient to us parents, but if the payoff is a cheerful, alert child, I think you’ll agree it’s usually worth it. Save your exceptions to the schedule for days you really need them.
If you have optimized your child’s schedule and sleep is still a mess, set up a free discovery call and let’s get your family the rest you deserve.
My girls turned 7 months a week ago and should be napping 3hrs max at 3 naps a day. I’ve found going from 3.5-3 hrs has been hard for them. I have to wake them up from each nap and they are upset when I do.
Also when I don’t give Y at least 3.15 hrs of daytime nap, it makes putting her down for naps challenging as she screams until she falls asleep. Yesterday I gave them 3.5hrs but thought it’d affect their night time sleep but it didn’t. They went to bed at 7:35pm, and woke up at 7am. Their wake windows are also 2.5hrs which works best for Y, but I’ve put Z down a bit earlier than that and she still sleeps. How can I slowly dial it back to get to 3hrs or should I just let them be since it’s not affecting their night time sleep?
In a word, no. It’s not a problem at all. Some babies just sleep more than others.
Sleep predictions by age are just averages. Some babies will inevitably need more sleep and others need less. If you are the parent of a high sleep needs baby, you are, by many accounts, lucky.
Other parents worry that their babies don’t sleep enough. I worked with a client recently whose 12-month-old baby just wouldn’t take longer than 30-minute naps. We tried everything. But the baby’s night sleep -- after our work together -- was beautiful. Ten to eleven hours a night, with no wakings. And her mood was great during the day. She just didn’t need a lot of sleep, total, and especially, not a lot during the day.
So while it’s a good idea to have a general idea of average sleep needs and average awake intervals, try not to get bogged down with them.
Here are some general guidelines for what to expect in terms of awake intervals. I recommend switching to a clock-based schedule (as opposed to an awake-interval based schedule) by about 5 months but awake intervals are still useful beyond that age as a general guide. For example, if your two-year-old naps from 2-4 pm, she’s probably not going to be ready for bed at 7 pm because she needs 4-5.5 hours awake between the end of nap and her bedtime.
Awake Interval Details by Age *averages. In general, try to keep the awake intervals at the shorter end of the range unless you have a low sleep needs baby.)
Birth to 6 weeks: 45-60 min
2 mos: 1 hour
3 months: 1-1.5 hours
4 months: 1.25-1.75 hours with bedtime about 1.75-2 hours after the last nap ends.
5 months: 1.5-2.25 hours with bedtime no later than 2-2.5 hours after the last nap ends.
*** Most babies transition from 4-5 naps a day to 3 naps a day by about 5 months old. You can expect naps to get longer when this happens. You will likely need a very early bedtime during this transition to prevent overtiredness.
6 months: 2-2.5 hours Naps should be ending by 5:00pm with bedtime 2.25-2.75 hours after the last nap ends.
7 months: 2.25-2.75 hours with naps ending by 5:00pm. Bedtime should be 2.25-2.75 hours after the last nap ends.
8 months: 2.25-3 hours. The last nap should end by 4:00pm and bedtime should be 3-3.75 hours after that.
9 months: 2.5-3 hours. The last nap should end by 4:00pm. Bedtime should be 3-3.5 hours after that.
*** Most babies transition from 3 naps a day to 2 naps a day between 7 and 9 months old. You will likely need a very early bedtime during this transition to prevent overtiredness.
10 months: 3-3.5 hours awake between 2 naps with bedtime 3-4 hours after the end of the second nap.
11 months: 3-4 hours awake with bedtime 3-4 hours after the end of the second nap.
12 months: 3-4 3-4 hours awake with bedtime 3-4 hours after the end of the second nap.
12-18 months (2 naps): 3-4 hours awake with bedtime 3-4 hours after the end of the second nap.
12-18 months (1 nap): 5-6 hours awake before the nap and bedtime 4-5.5 hours after the nap ends.
*** Most babies transition from two naps a day between 15 and 18 months but some children transition as early as 12 months or as late as 21 months. When this transition happens, move bedtime earlier to prevent overtiredness.
18-24 months: 5-6 hours before the nap and bedtime 4-6 hours after the nap ends.
24+ months: The nap should end by 3:00-3:30pm or even earlier if you are finding that bedtime is too late. It is normal for bedtime to become later the longer the child keeps their nap. You may cap the nap to keep bedtime from getting too late.
For most children under age 6 (yes, a huge range of ages!), the sweet spot for bedtime is between 6:30 and 7:30 pm.
Don’t be afraid to try a much earlier bedtime if your baby or toddler seems overtired! If your preschooler is still napping (yay!), you may need a slightly later bedtime but if your little one is up until 9 pm or later, cap or eliminate the nap.
Again, these are just guidelines. If you are worried you child is sleeping too much or too little, schedule a free chat and we can figure out what is the best individualized schedule for your little one.
We live far west in our time zone and now, with Daylight Savings Time, it gets dark so late here, around 8 pm, and doesn’t get light until relatively late in the morning, either, around 7:00 am.
My five-year-old is really struggling to fall asleep when it’s light out, even with blackout shades in her room. We have resorted to giving her melatonin after an hour of her struggling to fall asleep. We are not in the room with her and she’s not having screen time before bed. I don't know what else to try.
I know that you generally advise an early bedtime, but is there ever an exception to that rule?
It’s true that as a rule, I recommend a bedtime of approximately 6:30-7:30 pm for most children under six-years-old. It seems that this bedtime most often successfully leads to 11-12 hours of sleep at night and a morning wake time of around 6:30-7 am. Most children seem to thrive on this schedule.
But the above scenario illustrates a very reasonable exception to this rule.
If, by putting your child to bed later, your child can fall asleep more quickly and sleep roughly the same number of hours of total sleep, there’s no reason not to make an exception to the rule.
Try it for a few days and see how it goes. If your child starts to have dinner time meltdowns, or impromptu car naps, this would suggest the later bedtime isn’t working so well. But if she sleeps well and wakes up happy and your work/childcare schedule can accommodate the later schedule, congratulations! You have found a workable solution!
Regardless of bedtime, I always recommend blackout shades and white noise at bedtime and lasting the whole night long.
Melatonin should only be used as a last resort, using the smallest possible dose, and only after getting your pediatrician’s approval.
If your family is struggling with sleep deprivation and nighttime struggles, consider setting up a free consult to see what solutions might help your entire family feel their best.
FB Live Replay: What Is Your Child's Ideal Bedtime, How Does Teething Affect Sleep and More
Check out my first weekly Facebook Live to hear more about the ideal bedtime for your child, how teething can affect sleep, bedtimes for school age children, hear the story of how I came to be a sleep consultant and more.
I also talk about my peaceful parenting style and how incorporating "special time" can make bedtime separation easier. For those of you with toddlers, preschoolers or older children... fear not, instituting new bedtime routines doesn't have to be a miserable experience for anyone in the family.
Set up a free consult with me to learn more. There's no committment.
Life Feeling Out Of Control with COVID-19? This Is the Perfect Time to Sleep Train
Don't worry, I don't feel like this either.
Hey there, friend? Are you, by any chance, stuck at home with one or more little ones right now? Is life feeling out of control? Are you anxious? Unproductive? Feeling disconnected?
Yup, me too.
But I realized this morning that that feeling serves no one.
We are all in a tough situation right now. Why not do what we can to give ourselves a sense of control? And help our families feel their best?
If your child is not getting the sleep he needs, he's likely going to be wound up and hyperactive. Even if you have a very chill little one, I promise he will be even more calm and focused when he's getting the sleep he needs.
Coronavirus is providing us many of us with the ideal opportunity to change our lives, establish new habits and yes, sleep train. When will you again have such control over your child's schedule?
Also, if your child is sleeping on a predictable schedule, you'll know that you have set periods each day to focus on your work. That is going to relieve some of your stress, whether you are working for pay or a stay at home parent. Here are some things that can help:
Daylight savings time starts this Sunday, March 7. in the United States. It doesn't start for another month in Mexico, not until April 5.
Daylight savings time is rough, especially for parents.
Or rather, the "fall back" at the end of daylight savings time is rough. "Springing forward" is actually a lot easier in most cases.
If your little one is waking too early, this is the perfect opportunity to reset her clock. Just get her up at her regular time and voila, it's magically an hour later!
The only challenge with this is, if you want to keep her waking at this suddenly-later time, you have to keep the rest of her schedule on the "old time" too. If you adjust her meals and her naps to DST, you can expect her early wakings to return, too.
Of course, early wakings are almost always the result of a too-late bedtime, so it might be easiest to focus on solving that problem. For more tips on that, check out Why Does My Child Wake Up So Early?
If you want your child to continue waking at the same time -- for most children, a wake time between 6-7:30 am is ideal for the best rest at night -- try to start transitioning the schedule now, if you are in the States, or 6 days prior, if you are in Mexico or another place with a different start date for DST.
Everything in your child's schedule will need to shift. Get him up 10 minutes earlier, feed him 10 minutes earlier, put him down to nap 10 minutes earlier. Tomorrow you will do it 10 minutes earlier than you did today. And so on. So that by the time DST arrives, you are already on the correct schedule. Easy peasy!
If you weren't that organized, no problem! Just start the transition as soon as you can. Or allow your child to transition gradually next week, if work and daycare schedules permit.
As the days get longer, children will also struggle with early wakings because the sun is rising earlier. Make sure your child's bedroom is equipped with really great blackout shades. Any leakage of light can lead to early wakings when your child is naturally less tired after a long night of sleep. Not sure you want to invest? Try taping garbage bags over the windows for a few days. I did this with my older daughter and her room was depressingly dark and cave-like but suprisingly effective at creating great naps. Your local hardware store will likely have inexpensive stick-on black out shades as well.
Make sure you are using white noise as well, to block out outside noise. The birds -- and the garbage trucks -- will be getting up extra early as the days get longer. I love this one -- it's suprisingly loud, inexpensive, lightweight and portable -- you can power it with batteries if there isn't an outlet available. We bring it on all our trips, even when we go camping!
As the days get longer, it's also easy to let bedtime slide later. It's harder to keep track of the time when the sun is shining so brightly. Set an alarm on your phone to remind you when to start bedtime. If the living room is sunny and bright, consider transitioning to a darker room an hour before bedtime. Exposure to darkness naturally encourages our bodies to produce melatonin, a hormone that causes sleepiness. Exposure to blue light from screens does the opposite, so make sure to avoid them in the hour before bedtime.
Any shift in schedule can be stressful with little ones, but the start of DST in most places is a lot easier than the end of DST. A little preparation can make this transition even easier!
For help with transitioning your child to a time change, addressing early wakings, or any other sleep challenge, set up a free chat so we can get your family the sleep you deserve.
"They each got up and intermittently played and cried. Clementine was okay. Cecilia acted exhausted. They ate once, or maybe twice, each. I tried to get Cecilia to nap in her swing. She cried desperately. I gave up. They played, and whined. Cecilia fell into a bottomless pit of despair and I carried her up to her crib, where she settled happily and admired her jellyfish and sucked her thumb. I came downstairs. Clementine was trying to sleep on the floor. I carried her upstairs. She rolled over in her crib, spun 180 degrees so her feet was where her head should be, and shouted. I tried to wait it out. Cecilia started occasionally crying (wouldn’t you?). I went upstairs and removed Clementine. Cecilia saw me and sobbed. I put Clementine in the swing. She fell promptly asleep. Cecilia cried for several minutes, remembered her jellyfish, and then fell asleep. From the time they needed that nap until they fell asleep was an hour and a half. That’s insane."
Twins are tough! I recently wrote another post with tips for sleep training twins and higher order multiples. Today I'll delve a bit deeper.
Identical twins usually have similar sleep needs, while fraternal twins' sleep needs are are different as any other set of siblings. This means it will be more challenging to get your twins on a similar schedule if they are fraternal... but there are things you can do to help the process along.
In any given set of fraternal twins, there is typically one who is considered one who is the more sensitive sleeper and another who is considered the more challenging sleeper. The sensitive sleeper is more reliant on routine and can't adapt well to changes in the schedule but generally sleeps well. The more challenging sleeper struggles with falling asleep independently and tends to take shorter naps.
In order to prevent overtiredness -- which makes it harder for children to sleep -- parents should generally focus on prioritizing the sleep needs of the more sensitive sleeper, the one with apparently higher sleep needs.
If the children will be sharing a room, it is generally recommended that parents sleep train their twins in the same room. Yes, they may wake each other initially, but it's the only way they will eventually learn to sleep through each others' noises. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that twins do not share a sleep surface. Room-sharing with parents for at least the first six months, but ideally until one year, can reduce the risk of SIDS by up to 50%.
As discussed in my previous post, put the cribs as far apart as possible. Put a white noise machine on the floor between them. Use blackout curtains for every nap as well as at night. If one baby wakes at night for a feeding, wake the other for a feeding also unless they are past four months and your healthcare provider has given the okay for night weaning. In that case, don't wake the sleeping baby for a feeding. I know this can be scary because it might mean twice as many night wakings for you! Try to delay the first feeding until after midnight.
Fraternal twins typically do not consolidate naps at the same time. But you want them on the same schedule. This can be tricky! When one wakes after a short nap... don't let him get up! He needs practice putting himself back to sleep. Even at the risk of disturbing his twin. Give the catnapper at least 15-30 minutes to fall back asleep, for at least a total of 60-90 minutes in the crib. If he still won't sleep, get both babies up and out of their cribs so that they are sleepy at the same time for the next nap.
Night sleep training typically takes about 2 weeks for twins and naps can take even longer to fall into place. But don't despair, with time and consistency, things will get better.
I love working with twin families! You guys amaze me. Let me help you get your little ones sleeping through the night. Let's set up a free chat and see how I can get your family the sleep you deserve.
Weekends. Gloriously free but hectic, too. So much you need to do. And so many things you just want to do.
Grocery shopping. Errands. Cooking. Catching up with friends and family. And then the ever-elusive sleeping in.
Surely a later bedtime on weekends can't hurt?
Well, only if you and your child don't mind the occasional jet lag.
The truth is, children don't do well with a lack of consistency in their routine. Children thrive on predictable wake times, nap times, and bedtimes. Putting them to bed later feels to their bodies like changing time zones. You know that doesn't feel good.
And the even uglier truth? Adults do better with consistency, too.
Part of the reason you so desperately want to sleep in on weekends is that you are accumulating sleep debt by changing your bedtime and wake times so frequently.
It's hard to give up those occasional late nights, but if you do, you will feel less tired. Even if you get a bit less sleep, overall.
Before you accuse me of being a Grinch... I get it. I truly do.
This past weekend, I kept my children up late to go see the newly-lit Christmas tree in town. My little one got to bed an hour and a half late.
Sometimes, we have to prioritize life over sleep. It's important to balance the needs of the entire family, including the parents, with the sleep needs of your child.
I encourage you to limit exceptions, though, to no more than twice a month. Plan ahead so you save those later nights for the most important of occasions.
Here are some other ways to limit the impact of the occasional late night:
Watch your child and see how she reacts to the occasional late night. As she gets older, she will be more able to tolerate that occasional exception. A younger toddler may be better off staying home with a babysitter and getting to bed on time, rather than going out with the family. It may also be a lot more enjoyable for you that way. Rest assured, she won't need this early bedtime forever.
Need some help adjusting your child's bedtime? Set up a free consult and let's chat!
Abby Wolfson is a pediatric nurse practitioner, certified child sleep consultant and certified life coach for parents. She divides her time between Brooklyn, NY and San Miguel de Allende, Mexico.