If I could write a book about early bedtimes, I would. They are underrated and so important for our children. I never understood the value of them until I had my daughter. We struggled a lot with short naps, nap transitions, and early mornings. I was diligent about putting her to bed early on days when we were struggling with sleep, and I got a lot of pushback for it, which I was honestly surprised by. But early bedtimes saved us. It saved us from having a child that was overtired and from inviting new sleep problems into our life. To date, early bedtimes are the #1 thing that my clients are sometimes hesitant about. So, I decided to write a blog post to explain why early bedtimes work, when they are helpful, and why they are important.
1. Keeping your child awake for longer stretches does not mean a better night’s sleep. I hear it all the time from parents, and it is a big myth about sleep. Sleep begets sleep. A child who is well-rested during the day will sleep better at night. Keeping your child awake for long periods will only raise their cortisol levels and make it harder for them to fall asleep at night and stay asleep. One of my very first clients was a mom of a toddler who was “wild” at bedtime and struggling with early mornings. The remedy? Put him to bed an hour earlier. And guess what? He went to sleep without a fight, and he slept even later than usual.
2. An earlier bedtime does not mean your child will wake up earlier. I promise you. The better rested they are at night the later they will sleep. If you are struggling with early morning wakings, try putting your child to bed earlier. Even 15 minutes can make a huge difference. You will be surprised by the results.
3. Early bedtimes will get you through nap transitions. If your child is going through a nap transition, more likely than not, there are days where he/she skips a nap and is awake for long periods. The #1 thing I recommend to my clients during nap transitions are early bedtimes (as early as 5:30 pm sometimes). It will prevent your child from being too overtired and will prevent any night wakings from occurring during the nap transition.
4. Did you know that the most restorative sleep occurs before midnight? That is another big reason I am pro early bedtimes. I would rather a child sleep from 7-7 instead of 9-9. Why? The most restorative sleep occurs before midnight, so the more sleep they can get before midnight, the better.
If you are struggling with early mornings, nap transitions, or a child who seems overtired at bedtime, I encourage you to try an earlier bedtime. Even bumping up bedtime by 15 minutes can be a huge help, and it will help your child make up some of that sleep debt.