The Importance of Bed Time

I’m a staunch advocate for schedules and routines when it comes to raising children.  In fact, I think predictable days can and do go a long way toward eliminating many behavioral issues.  And the most important, most jealously guarded hour of the day should be the one leading up to bed time.  After all, we all need a space of time to wind down from the day’s activities, time to slip from the go-go-go of the daylight hours to the peaceful rest of evening.  Children are not excepted.

What we often don’t realize, though, is that children need many more hours of sleep than adults do.  Evie, at 17 months, needs about 12-14 hours a day.  She gets a solid ten most nights, and takes a 2-3 hour nap during the day.  If she doesn’t get her sleep due to an outing or a late night or an early rising, she will be easily upset throughout the day.  Tommy, at six, needs a good ten hours, which he gets all in one go overnight.  Eight year old Penelope and 11 year old Rosie need between nine and ten hours, as sleep needs do decrease as they grow older.  Even at 11, though, Rosie still needs more sleep than the 7-8 hours I need.  It’s important to take this into account when fixing a bed time.

Oh, yes!  An actual bed time is very important for all children, from babies to teens! And it’s important for the children’s parents, too.  We need time, as married people, to reconnect and bond, and that is best done without the children underfoot.  Of course, this may lead to more children. 😉

But back to bed time.

Children – and adults – need a period of transition from waking to sleeping.  It has worked well for us to begin the bedtime routine with dinner.  Dinner?  Why, yes!  Dinner is perhaps the most important meal of the day for family bonding.  Cook something simple and tasty, with or without the children’s help, turn off the television and your other electronic intruders, and enjoy a little bit of conversation with your favorite people in the whole world.  It’s a great time to catch up with each other after a day apart.  And cleaning up together afterward helps to build camaraderie and house keeping skills.

After dinner, we like to move along to the tub.  Older children shower, and younger children get a bath.  It’s soothing and refreshing to wash away the grubbiness of the day.  Brush teeth, put on pajamas, and then gather back together for a few minutes.  It has been our most favorite part of the evening for many years now to read stories together.  Fifteen minutes or so allows for a couple of picture books; twenty minutes is enough to read a chapter of most children’s novels.  Then we pray together and I tuck them each into their beds, even the teens!

What if the bedtime that allows for the youngest children to get the sleep they need is too early for the older ones?  I recommend allowing them to read in bed or write in a journal until their bedtime arrives.  The important thing is to be quiet.  And unplugged.

I mentioned that this should be the most jealously guarded hour of the day, and you’ll notice that most extracurricular activities will take place during this time.  Team sports, 4H, religious education, and all of the adult organizations, too, schedule their meetings and activities for these hours after parents are home from work.  We yield too much of our precious family time, I think, to outsiders, and it’s very hard to keep saying no to good things in order to keep those hours clear.  But I think it’s worth it.

It’s worth it to have a habit of family meals.  It’s worth it to have shared family experiences.  It’s worth it to make sure everyone gets enough sleep.  It’s worth it to ensure that husbands and wives have time together.

Bed time matters!

Do you have a bed time routine?  At what hour do your children have to be in bed?  Do you find that you have enough time to be with your spouse at the end of the day?  What would you change if you could, and what is holding you back?

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4 thoughts on “The Importance of Bed Time

  1. Anne

    We adhere to strict bedtimes too for exactly the reasons you mentioned! Our routine sounds a lot like yours. Emma is 2.5 and still napping during the day, so she goes to bed between 7-8. Once she gives up the nap around 3 years old, her bedtime will jump back up to 6-630 until she’s 4 or 5. The three bigs (5-8) are generally tucked into bed at 730, though it’s stretching closer to eight as they grow. I read to them after dinner and baths, and then since none of mine are reading fluently yet, they listen to an audio book as they fall asleep. Then my husband and I relax together, though I’m sorry to say it usually is by watching a show, but at least I get to work on my crochet then too. It’s one of the best parts of the day.

  2. CMerie

    We have a scheduled routine for our day as well. The 2 year old naps from 1-3 every afternoon. The 2 and 4 year olds are in bed at 7:30 after a couple of story books. The bigs (6 and 8 year olds) go to bed at 8 after a chapter from a book. They are allowed to read in bed in an effort to keep them quiet but I find my girls ( the 4 and 6 year old) are rarely quiet until 9 or so. It is actually quite a battle to keep them in their beds and quiet and does take away from my husbands and my time together. Any suggestions?
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    1. Jennie Cooper Post author

      I’m guessing you’ve got them roomed together by gender, so the eldest and youngest are together and the middle girls share a room. Is it possible to switch up their room arrangements at all? Or maybe put one of the talkative two to sleep on your bed and move her later?

      This is a hard one. It’s a little easier in the winter, when it’s dark early enough that you can say, “Talking? Okay! Lights out, then!” You’ve got to have something to take away or some kind of extra thing they won’t like. Like maybe, “I heard you two talking last night after I tucked you in. Now you have to do this extra chore,” or “now we can’t have pizza tonight,” or watch a favorite show, or go on a special outing, or whatever might motivate them without driving you crazy.

      Motherhood requires a ridiculous amount of creativity.

  3. KristyB

    We’ve always valued our children’s bedtime routine. There’s not a whole lot to our “routine”, but more that they do have a regular bedtime. Unless we have family visiting from out of town, or we are enjoying a weekend evening all together with dinner or a movie, we see no reason to just stay up for the sake of staying up. They all need a lot of sleep and there’s no reason they shouldn’t be able to get what they need at night or with an added nap. (I’ve seen plenty others that don’t seem to have normal bedtimes and I can tell it affects they in various ways, it would seen an easy answer). This summer our bedtimes are stacked at 7:30, 8, 8:30, and 9. The oldest will be starting school quite a bit later in the morning now that he’s in middle school so we’ve given him a slightly later bedtime than previously. But we don’t see any reason it should ever be much later than that unless he’s up working on homework or has a job. After dinner, they all shower and dress, then usually read or finish up an after-dinner chore. We pray, read, and say good night. And sometimes they all stay in bed after that :).

    We see so much value in our couple time that we enjoy between the kids’ bedtimes and our own. We need that time of decompression, that break. Sometimes we watch a movie, many times we just chat or work on a project we have. I tell our kids “dad came first” and so he has the claim to my attention as much and more than they do. Without him, they would not be :). I just want them to know that while we will do all we can to meet all their needs and some of their wants, our time as the two of us is important for the good of our whole family and they must understand and begin to respect that. And so, a consistent bedtime routine fosters the ability to have that time together. And so we make it important and let our kids know it’s important. Bedtimes are a good thing :)


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