Wednesday, March 30, 2011

What time is bedtime for kids?

Quite unintentionally I have gotten into discussions with other moms about bedtime lately. By this, I don't mean the routine of it, I mean the actual time you put your children to bed. Having done a lot of reading on the importance of routine and sleep for children, I have a pretty good idea of the recommended number of hours children should sleep in a day. I know consistency is best. I know having a routine works. My kids (ages 1, 4, and 6) have a bedtime of 7:30. This translates to the 1 year old in her crib sleeping by 7:30 each night and the 4 and 6 year olds in their beds ready to sleep at 7:30 and sleeping by 8:00. We get up in the morning somewhere between 6:30 and 7am so this equals a good amount of sleep for them. I have a friend who abides by the same kind of schedule. Her 6 year old has a bedtime of 7:30, her 8 year old - 8:00 and her 10 year old - 8:30. Again, it works for them. The kids are well rested and wake up naturally in the morning with good energy for the day. What I haven't told you yet is that both of us are born North Americans (I'm Canadian and she's American by birth). We were both raised with the same Western notions of bedtime.
Another friend of mine is from Pakistan. She's been in Canada for a year and a half and really has a difficult time with the Western notion of bedtimes for children. In her culture supper before 8pm is considered early (we eat at 6pm in our house) and generally bedtime is closer to 10:00. She has adjusted somewhat for the sake of her 6 year old son for school (feeding him dinner at 8:30 and then putting him to bed), but the idea of eating earlier and putting your children to bed earlier really takes her back.
Similarly, I babysit a child whose parents have immigrated here from Romania. The mother was telling me that she was so happy that she got her son to sleep at 9:30 the night before (he's 2). She is finding it difficult to wake him at 7 in the morning. 9:30! I thought. Oh my goodness, I couldn't fathom having my kids up that late. 9:30 for me is my time to visit with my husband and relax before I go to bed. You should have seen the look on her face when I told her my kids' bedtimes. She was floored. She grew up watching bedtime stories on TV during the 9:00 hour and the notion of putting her child to bed before 9pm is inconceivable to her.
Another child I babysit has parents from Iran. On his child profile sheet the bedtime is listed as anywhere from 10pm to midnight. Wow! Again, I think it is a cultural thing. They are having a difficult time waking him up on his daycare days because they are so used to sleeping until 11am/noon. Getting up to go to classes and have him at daycare for 9am is a stretch.
This all triggered a memory of an ex-student of mine years ago. He was in grade 1 and was really grumpy and having behavior issues in the classroom. I met with his parents to talk about it. On a hunch, I asked about his bedtime. Their answer was, "oh, 10, 10:30" This child's family was from India originally. This particular school started at 8:25am. I suggested that they try putting him to bed at 8:30 at the latest just to see what happens. They did. The improvement in his behavior at school was remarkable. You wouldn't believe it was the same child. Here I am so many years later just learning why his bedtime had originally been so late, it was their culture to do so.
I don't know about you, but I find this all fascinating. Here in Canada we have based our work days and school calendars on the old agrarian schedule. Up at dawn and meals at 7, noon and 5 (or thereabouts). We are also a country now that is truly made up of so many different cultures. Bedtime is just one aspect of this that shows where we come from.


  1. I found this post interesting. My two older brothers both have children and are of the same mind as you of putting their children to bed earlier. They are 2 and 3 years old. However for me it simply doesn't work. There are the occasional days that my son is out like a light around 8:30 at night but usually he get's his bath around then, and then he's in bed around 9 and after stories and cuddles and singing he usually falls asleep around 9:30-10:30 depending on how tired out he is. We wake anywhere between 8:30 and 9:30 and on an off day we sleep in until 10:30. (those are rare) Our scheduling is how it is because of how he is. We eat breakfast around 11 or lunch around 3:30 and our supper is usually 7:30ish to 8. It was never that way when I was a child. Everyone was working, and going to school, and I'm sure as he grows older, starts sleeping regular through the night our pattern of sleeping and eating will gradually change too. But for now I appreciate the extra sleep, and not mind having a baby who actually sleeps in.

  2. That's interesting you said that Beck. It reminded me of when we just had our first child. I was on mat leave and my husband had a flexible schedule and worked a lot of afternoons and evenings. Our son did stay up later then and we slept in in the mornings. Once I was back at work though we had to rewind everything as I was out the door at 7:30am. I think everyone has to do what works for them.

  3. Great post! I found you from the blog party! My 4-year-old goes to bed at 8pm, and my 7-year-old goes to bed at 9pm. They both get up by 7am, sometimes early (and wake momma!). I agree that there are different cultural standards for this, and I think climate has something to do with it. In many of the hotter climates, they eat dinner later when it is cooler, so bed times are later. We had a Spanish foreign exchange student who lived with us when I was younger, and he was not ready to eat at our dinnertime (around 6-6:30pm), but wanted a full meal at 10pm! I wonder if school starts later there, too?

  4. We haven't been able to get our son to sleep earlier than 10 since he was crawling. We have some friends whose daughter is the same way. Keeping in mind that they all stay at home and don't have to get up at a specific time of course. It is rough on us for when I have to get to work though. There just doesn't seem to be any "putting him to bed" that works. He just does what he wants until he drops no matter what we try.




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