I remember feeling a little smug about our strict 7:30 p.m. bedtime.
Those were the days. Life was simpler ... I think. I can't remember because I blacked out the year there were four children under 4 years old, and I've been sleep deprived ever since.
I do remember there was maybe a little judgment cast toward parents who let their kids stay up much later. Then I had more kids and their time and schedules became a whole lot less precious.
Now-a-days our schedule looks a little different with kids having activities that go until that much later "judgy" time. Unfortunately, this means a strict bedtime is difficult and everyone has to adjust accordingly.
I like the kids to be in their bedrooms sometime between 8 and 8:30 p.m. I mean, earlier would be better, like 6 if we're being honest, but that's becoming more and more unrealistic. If they are in bed by 8:30, I'm happy with that and if anyone wants to read until later then so be it. Maybe it's wrong, but I don't care how late you stay up reading. The problems of the universe are not stemmed from late-night readers.
Moving on: When should kids actually go to bed? And maybe more importantly, how much sleep do they need? I think I need a solid nine hours, not including all the make-up sleep I need from the baby years. I'm now dreaming of what it would be like to go to sleep early, sleep all night uninterrupted and wake up on my own. It's a pipe dream.
I know every person is different and so are their sleep needs, but generally speaking, I'd like to know if we are meeting our requirements.
I found guidelines, published in June 2016, by the American Academy of Sleep Medicine and supported by the American Academy of Pediatrics. They recommend the following cumulative hours of sleep, including naps, for every 24 hours:
Infants 4 months to 12 months:12 to 16 hours
Children 1 to 2 years: 11 to 14 hours
Children 3 to 5 years: 10 to 13 hours
Children 6 to 12 years: 9 to 12 hours
Teenagers 13 to 18 years: 8 to 10 hours
So this gives me a rough idea of how much sleep they need.
But it'a still difficult to set a bedtime because there's no telling when they will actually wake up. While they don't need to be up until 7:15 or 7:30 a.m., who knows when they will make their morning debut for the very early morning show where they yell at me for laying out the wrong pants. One of them, in particular, may wake up at 6:30 or 5 ... there's no telling.
I read a study that talked about respecting your body clock and not forcing an early-bird schedule if you are a natural night owl. This study was obviously focused on adults because I don't give a flying toss if you're a night owl, I'm having a half an hour to myself and watching an adult show, so ... beat it nerds!
Side bar: I once had a college professor who totally believed in not sleeping for more than four to six hours at a time. She would sleep some at night and some mid-day. She let me turn papers in whenever and gave me an A, so I obviously agreed with all her ideas on life.
With different age kids, it can be hard to get them to bed at different bedtimes, especially when they are all close in age. There's no set formula, although if you like math you would add all their ages, divide by the number of kids then guess at the morning time median and figure your kids should go to bed by 8:07 ... you know if you're a nerd.
A clear goal for everyone is helpful and sets kids up for a healthy sleep routine. A loose bedtime, a bed (not mine) and limited distractions should be the goal. Since we are creatures of habit, it could help them maintain a healthy sleep pattern throughout their life.
The bottom line is kids need a lot of sleep and mama needs a break so my advice is: Get them off to bed ASAP for everyone's mental health. Obviously, the needier go first. Then take your own advice and get yourself to bed at a reasonable time. Do not pass out on the floor binge watching your current obsession on Netflix. Or do ... you're an adult and can do what you want.
Jen Reekie was born and raised in Quincy and received a communications degree at the University of Kansas, which has come in quite handy as she communicates every day with four children who don't hear a word she says. This stay-at-home mom enjoys the challenge, though, and shares her experiences in this blog, "Mum's the Word." She welcomes your feedback, questions and stories about staying sane while raising kids.