If you're like many parents, the thought of early bedtime may cause you to panic...
You may be concerned about your child waking at a brutally early hour if you lay them down earlier in the evening, but first, hear us out on the benefits of an early bedtime.
They reduce tiredness, night wakes, and super early mornings
Children become overtired when they're running low on sleep. This can be caused by illness, vacation, short naps, or a developmental leap. Once a child becomes overtired, other issues may arise including bedtime battles, night wakings, or super early morning rises. This is because of the stress hormone cortisol, which is naturally released when we are overtired. The main purpose of the stress hormone is to keep us awake and alert. The second wind that cortisol causes can further a child's sleep deprivation, as the cortisol makes it harder for them to fall asleep and stay asleep. Now, this is where the magic of early bedtimes comes in! The best way to combat over-tiredness or ward off the overtired state is to allow your child the opportunity to receive more sleep. The NREM sleep that children receive before midnight is the most restorative rest during the entire day and can help them pay back a sleep debt. By offering a very early bedtime, you allow your child to receive this deep sleep and reduce their cortisol levels. This deep sleep will also allow them to sleep later into the morning and have fewer wakes throughout the night.
2. Allow your child more time to develop new skills
Have you ever noticed how your little one practices rolling, crawling, or babbling before they fall asleep? It's no secret that little ones enjoy their time alone in the crib to fine-tune these new skills. If you notice your child is developing new skills or experiencing a mental leap, this is a great time to move nap time and bedtime a little earlier to allow them the time to practice before falling asleep.
3. Reduce bedtime battles
If bedtime has started to feel like a battle, consider moving it up even just half an hour. Even though toddlers can be super active all day long, many still need an earlier bedtime than most parents think. By moving bedtime up you reduce the possibility of your child catching a "second wind". We know early bedtimes aren't always easy, it takes planning, and for the whole family to be on board.
When we say early, how early do we mean?
For babies under 12 months, bedtime can be as early as 5:30 PM, based on their mood and the quality of their naps. For toddlers and preschoolers, it could be as early as 6-6:30. Remember, these super early bedtimes are usually temporary, and once your child's sleep is back on track, you can slowly move bedtime a little later. In general, most children do best with an earlier bedtime, so we recommend taking a minute to reflect on your family's evening routine. Plus, once the kids go to bed, you have more time to spend with your partner, relax, get things done, or go to sleep early yourself!