There are a lot of misconceptions about sleep. One that I frequently encounter is the idea that children need to be exhausted before they can fall asleep.
Most of the families I work with are well informed about the importance of establishing a set bedtime and following a routine leading up to “lights-out.” Unfortunately, their little ones don’t always comply.
Among infants, parents frequently report their little ones are either wide-eyed and bushy-tailed or fussy and inconsolable when bedtime rolls around. Hours of rocking and feeding ensue, only for the child to wake up a short time later.
Among the increasingly verbal toddler set, parents often note that their kids are too excited to settle down for bed. Or, they get their children in bed only to face a litany of requests and needs. “I’m thirsty. I need my stuffie, but we’ll need to go on a long hunt to find it. I need to use the potty…again. One more hug. I need to see Daddy one more time. I want my door open…no, closed…no, open…not that open, just a little bit open.”
While the advice in one blog post may not solve all of your child’s sleep issues, try to resist the urge to delay bedtime. Instead, consider that you may have missed your child’s sleep window and are now experiencing the symptoms of exhaustion.
When our children go to bed too late, their bodies are overextended. It becomes increasingly difficult for them to fall asleep because their body is reacting to stress. During stressful situations, the brain starts firing off signals to help the body react to potential danger. Our brain – the body’s command center – is telling the body to stay awake and alert.
By catching children for bedtime earlier, you chip away at the potential for their bodies to get over-stimulated and overextended. Stress levels tend to be lower making it easier for them to settle into sleep. And, when you catch your children for sleep early enough, you may also see those night wakings and early morning wakings subside.
So, what is an early bedtime? The best bedtimes for infants and toddlers are typically 6pm – 7pm.
For more information on the difference between bedtime and asleep time, read this post.