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Early Bedtime Schedule: Why This is Essential for Your Baby and Toddler

Updated: Jul 3, 2023


Summer is quickly approaching and with the sun staying out longer, are your kids wanting to stay outside later? I know mine are! We love being outdoors and getting that vitamin D, but let’s not forget the importance of sticking to our bedtime.


What is Considered “Early”?


I have seen the jaws of many moms and dads drop when I tell them 6:30-8:00 p.m. is the ideal range for bedtime for children under the age of 7 years old. To an adult, 6:30 p.m. is when many of us are just arriving home from work or putting dinner on the table. How could this be a good bedtime for their little ones?


Remember, our sleep needs as adults are much less than those of our littles. Our babies, toddlers, and older kiddos are developing at a rapid pace, and need lots of sleep to help nurture their growing brains and bodies.


Depending on the age of your child we are aiming for 10-12 hours of uninterrupted sleep with the ability to fall asleep independently.


Not to mention that a 6:30-8:00 p.m. bedtime aligns with our baby’s circadian rhythms. Once a baby is 4 months old, they will be producing sleepy hormones at set times every day.


The biggest surge in sleepy hormones happens during this time. When we capitalize on their sleep pressure and sleep hormones intersecting at the right time, we will start to see our babies sleeping longer.


I can already read your mind. The next question you are about to ask is: “But won’t a 6:30 p.m. bedtime mean they’ll wake up at 4:00am ready to start the day?”


The answer is: no way!


The #1 reason for early morning wakings is a bedtime that is too late.


It sounds counterintuitive, but early bedtimes actually allow the body to rest MORE at night. The reason relates to the circadian rhythms again.


When we offer sleep during the correct biological time, our babies will be able to take advantage of deep, NREM sleep in greater quantities. This deep sleep is necessary for restoring the body and eliminating all of the awake hormones that they’ve accumulated throughout their day.


With awake hormones at baseline, the body is better able to rest deeply in the early morning hours, when sleepy hormones are produced intermittently.


Why Early Bedtime Matters and When Can We Be Flexible


You may be in a season of life where you feel as if your world revolves around a bedtime that falls between 6:00-7:00 pm.


It’s hard mama! I don’t want to downplay the desire to enjoy the spring and summertime evenings outside, but both you and your baby will benefit from sticking to a consistent bedtime and routine.


Studies show that an early bedtime, before 9:00 pm, leads to better overall sleep and more positive behavior outcomes with their age-appropriate sleep schedule. If you need help figuring out your baby’s age-appropriate sleep schedule, check out this blog.


Early Bedtime and Nap Refusal


Uh oh! Did your little one have a bad day of naps or maybe they skipped their last nap of the day? In order to compensate for a skipped nap or a day of bad napping, you may consider moving bedtime up even earlier depending on when their last nap ended.


Let’s troubleshoot a common scenario: your 7-month-old baby is taking 3 naps a day, with their last nap ending at 4:30pm, and a bedtime of 7:30-8:00 pm.


Today, they had three terrible naps and were rather cranky during their last wake time. I would suggest moving bedtime no later than 6:30 p.m. And if you really want some jaw-dropping action…put them in bed at 6:00 p.m.


As long as they have had all of their feedings during the day, this will ensure the baby is not overtired, avoids false start at bedtime, but also guarantees that they will make up for their lost sleep at night.


Is your baby struggling with short naps? It’s worth checking out this blog to find the root cause of it.


Early Bedtime or Bust?


The last question in your mind (should I add mind-reading to my packages?!?) is likely: but is there ever a time when I can push bedtime later? Will a late bedtime completely throw my baby’s sleep for a loop?


If your baby or toddler is sleeping through the night and consistently taking solid naps, you definitely have wiggle room with their bedtime schedule. Independent sleep is key, because a late bedtime can cause an already overtired baby to sleep even less.


However, once you have solid nights and naps under your belt, I always advise parents to follow the 80/20 rule: 80% of your week, follow the schedule and environment for sleep. The other 20% of the week, push bedtime late and skip a nap if you need to.


This will teach flexibility and allow you to gauge your child’s tolerance when their schedule is off. If things go haywire…you’ve got it…early bedtime it is!


Early bedtime doesn’t mean you are trapped in home with no social life.


Think of fun and creative ways to enjoy your cool spring and summer evening outside after your baby goes to bed. Read a book on the patio, grill out with your partner or even enjoy a nice glass of wine by the fire pit.


An early bedtime means you get to enjoy these activities baby-free! And at the very least, you can go to bed early yourself! (Did you ever think that would happen while you were living your best life in college?? I sure didn’t…and now my bedtime is no later than 9:00pm!)


Motherhood is hard, but I encourage you to find ways to wind down at the end of the day, all while you know your little one is getting the rest they need.


And always, if you need help with your baby’s sleep I am here for you! Feel free to book a free 15-minute discovery call by clicking the button below. This call is great is you are really struggling with late bedtimes, multiple night wakings, crap naps, or early morning rising!

Sarah


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