Blog Post 7-Early Bedtimes

Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child
by Marc Weissbluth, M.D.

A Healthy Child Needs a Healthy Brain,
A Healthy Brain Needs Healthy Sleep.

Sleep is serious business.  If you have not already done so, please read Blog Posts 1 through 5 that describe how sleep is important and beneficial, from the point of view of the United States of America Department of the Army.  A major point, emphasized by the Army, is that more sleep produces more benefits for Soldiers.  Also, more sleep produces more benefits for children.  Even small amounts of extra sleep help (Blog Post 6).  At every age! 

Another point made by the Army (Blog Post 5) is that “Soldiers [Children] best accomplish sleep extension [more sleep] by going to bed earlier.”  The Army is clear about who is in charge: “Planning for sleep is a leader [Parent] competency”

EARLY BEDTIMES PROMOTE HEALTHY SLEEP
EARLY BEDTIMES PREVENT SLEEP PROBLEMS

An early bedtime may prevent sleep problems from developing in the first place.  A slightly earlier bedtime alone might completely or partially solve a sleep problem.  An early or an earlier bedtime, even just a slightly earlier bedtime, might produce:

                        ·  Longer night sleep durations.

                        ·  More deep, restorative sleep that occurs mainly earlier in the evening.

                        ·  Falling asleep faster after being put down (shorter sleep latency).

                        ·  More sleep consolidation.

                                    Fewer and briefer night awakenings requiring parental soothing back to sleep.

                                    Fewer and briefer silent awake times occurring after sleep onset.

                        ·  Better quality and/or longer daytime sleep (naps).

            In short, your child may fall asleep and stay asleep better when the bedtime is early.  This is because a bedtime that is too late causes increased brain arousal that interferes with easily falling asleep and staying asleep.  This results in a shorter duration of sleep and less consolidated (or more fragmented) sleep. 

            An important point for babies and young children is that, when the bedtime is too late, although night sleep may be shortened, and naps may be longer, often, the total (24-hour sleep time) is less.  Long naps do not fully compensate for short night sleep.  Further, when the bedtime is too late, even when total sleep is normal due to very long naps, the child suffers adverse consequences because the short night sleep alone harms the brain. Again, long naps do not fully compensate for short night sleep.

EVEN A SLIGHTLY EARLIER BEDTIME MAY PRODUCE BETTER SLEEP
A SLIGHTLY EARLIER BEDTIME MAY SOLVE A SLEEP PROBLEM

If your child has a sleep problem, moving the bedtime just a little earlier, perhaps 10 to 20 minutes earlier, may produce a small amount of extra sleep that, in turn, solves the sleep problem, because a small amount of extra sleep makes a big impact (Blog Post 6).

SIX WEEKS OF AGE

            At about 6 weeks of age, counting from the due date, not the birth date, three predictable changes occur because of brain maturation:

                        · Your baby makes specific social smiles in response to your smile.

                        · The longest single sleep period regularly occurs in the evening or night.

                        · Your baby’s brain wants to go to sleep at an earlier time in the evening.

            The failure to move your baby’s bedtime earlier will cause a cumulative sleep debt to occur that will eventually produce bedtime resistance and night wakings.

QUESTION

Have you experienced benefits for your child with an early or earlier bedtime? If so, please share your experience in Comments.

IT IS NOT NECESSARY TO MAKE YOUR CHILD CRY TO HAVE A GOOD NIGHT’S SLEEP

WHAT A PARENT CAN DO

· Encourage an early or earlier bedtime (even a slightly earlier bedtime may produce better sleep.  Blog Post 6.), especially at 6 weeks.

∙ Recognize that a healthy brain requires healthy sleep. Blog Posts 1, 2, 3, 4, and 5.

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