Every once in a while people ask me, “How long do I need to keep up this 7:00pm bedtime?” And my answer is, “Well, quite a while! Kids need a lot of sleep!” BUT there does come a day where you can enjoy a later bedtime. I talk about how I accomplished moving bedtime later with my family over on the podcast! Click here to listen!
Complete solidarity if you are a family who still has a 6:30 bedtime… we were right there with you until 2021 for my youngest!
When she started kindergarten, even though she had been used to preschool days, she was just WIPED for months. We had to do a really early bedtime because she was so tired.
However, I am SO excited that we have crossed the bridge now to a later bedtime!! We actually have been able to stay up and go outside at 8:45 and catch fireflies and then come inside and quickly get ready for bed. It’s just such a blissful time.
I want to tell you this because most of y’all are listening with babies or toddlers or preschoolers and you’re wondering, “When will I get to enjoy these summer evenings??” So I’m sharing with you what we do and how we transitioned from a 7pm bedtime to a 9pm bedtime over the years.
LATER BEDTIMES OVER THE SUMMER
Every summer, we ended up pushing the girls’ bedtime about 30 minutes later than their typical bedtime. So when they were in kindergarten, they had a 6:30 or a 7:00 bedtime because school wore them out. By first grade, which is where my youngest was this year, we were finally able to move to a 7-7:30 bedtime.
This meant that during the summer, we would only push them 30 minutes later because, to be perfectly honest, I’m ready to be done at 8pm. I want to enjoy my own evening and I like to go to bed at 9:30!! But this is our first year that we have shifted even later and I feel like we can finally hang.
WHAT TIME SHOULD THEIR BEDTIME BE?
Ellie, our almost 9-year old and rising 4th grader, had an 8:30 bedtime this year. So this means in the summer that we were looking at a 9pm bedtime, which made me nervous because I knew it would only work if she’s actually able to sleep in. (Now, every child is different, but I can happily tell you that she’s finally sleeping in!!)
Because she’s sleeping in later, she can still get that 10 ½ – 11 hours of sleep. Yes, my almost nine year old is getting 10 ½ – 11 hours of sleep every single night. That’s a thing!!
All this to say – when you consider what time your child’s bedtime should be, the first thing you need to understand is how much sleep they need.
For babies & toddlers, we’re aiming for that 11–12 hour mark. But even young elementary school children still need 10 to 12 hours of sleep.
For my girls, they have two very different needs! My older one, Ellie, she’s able to have a little bit less for her age – 10-11 hours at most. But for my youngest, she can easily clock 12 hours, no problem at all.
You know your child best and what their sleep needs are, so what I want you to do is figure out what time they need to wake up in the morning and then back up from there. If they need to wake up at 6:30am so that you can get them up and off to daycare or off to a sitter, then you need to understand that they can’t have that super late bedtime because they’re not able to have enough sleep to be happy, healthy and well rested.
For our girls over the summer, they’re home, and we have them signed up for camps, but the earliest they start is 9. So we’re able to actually wake them up by 8 and we can honor this 9pm bedtime.
SIGN #1 IT’S TOO LATE: EARLY WAKINGS
But here are some situations that will help you know if you’re unable to do this. I’m telling you this from firsthand experience.
My youngest is very sensitive to less sleep and I know that she is not going to bed early enough if she wakes up early in the morning.
If you decide to move bedtime later this summer, and you want to shift things from maybe a 7:00 bedtime to a 7:30 bedtime, and then you recognize that your kid wakes up earlier in the morning than they did with their usual bedtime, this is not the best move for them just yet.
So what I want you to do is put your child to bed at 7:30pm for three nights. If they’re waking up 30 or more minutes earlier than they were at their old bedtime, this is not a good fit. Go back to the old bedtime.
Why does this happen? When your child is overtired, they really can’t settle into sleep. And so they’re not able to get their full amount of sleep because they’re restless. They will wake up earlier because they are not ready for that later bedtime. We often think they’ll be so tired, they’ll crash and they’ll sleep all night long. But that’s just not the case.
One of the biggest signs of early morning wakings is that they have the incorrect bedtime. So honor that!!
SIGN #2 IT’S TOO LATE: CHANGE IN MOOD
We tested for Hattie to see if she could hang with a 9pm bedtime (longer than 3 days… 2 weeks actually!!) and what we found was that it was too late. She was waking up a little bit earlier some days, but she would also sleep in, so it was tricky to know.
But for her, the second sign was that she was on edge. Any little emotional outburst was much bigger than normal. If we happened to make a change of plans, it was a lot bigger of a deal for her. She would have a shorter mood and a much quicker temper.
And you may recognize the signs if you are a sleep deprived parent, right? You may recognize them in yourself or your kid. Once we started to recognize this was not our normal, happy-go-lucky Hattie and that her mood had totally shifted, we learned she is not a 9pm bedtime kid. She’s more like an 8:30, maybe 8:45.
The very first night that we moved her bedtime from 9pm back to 8:30, she slept until 9am the next morning. It was amazing because it was a very clear sign that she was tired!
So this summer, if you are going to move your child’s bedtime later, have so much fun, enjoy that and make those memories!! But be aware of those two signs.
If they are waking up earlier in the morning, or they are turning into a bear during the day, it may not be the best fit for them. You may need to go back and try again next year.
In the summer, while it is great to enjoy those later bedtimes, your kid is way more active!! They’re going to the pool, they’re playing outside, they’re running, they’re getting so much energy out which is fun, but it wears them out physically.
So especially if you have a toddler or preschooler, it may not be the right time to move their bedtime to 8:30 or 9:00. They may physically not be able to handle that and then you may be inviting many more battles at that time because they’re so tired. They literally are losing their senses and it’s difficult.
(I often talk about how it’s hard to be the parent of a tired toddler. But it is also difficult to be a tired toddler because they don’t know how to express themselves!! They don’t know that they’re tired. They may even say, “I’m not tired!” but YOU’RE the parent and you know when they’re tired!!)
BONUS TIP FOR STAYING UP EXTRA LATE
So here’s a little bonus tip for you. If you are moving bedtime later and you are enjoying the summer evening, you’re gonna have to skip the whole bedtime routine and just get to the core elements.
What we did for our girls was wash their faces, wash their feet because they were filthy from playing outside, brush their teeth, put their jammies on and hop into bed. We skipped the full shower, we skipped the books, I sang 1 song instead of 3 songs and we said goodnight… and they were happy to do that because they were exhausted!!
This summer is a great time to test out if your child is ready for a little bit later bedtime. But be warned that if they are waking up early, if they’re not the same person (they’re short tempered and they’re testing you throughout the day and bedtime becomes a battle) it’s probably too late of a bedtime.
So that’s what we’re doing this summer. Who knows what will happen by the time we get to August or September?! Maybe I should do a recap!? But I hope this was helpful. Sweet dreams!!
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