Is Your Child Going to Bed Too Late?

A viral post about bedtimes has hit a parental nerve.

Tucking your school-age child into bed should be the sweetest part of your day—but for many families, enforcing bedtimes can be a major battle.

Perhaps that’s why this Facebook post about optimal bedtimes from Wilson Elementary School in Kenosha, WI, has hit a major nerve: It’s been shared more than 435,000 times, with more than 10,000 commenters debating about the practicality of those numbers. Is it really possible to get a 12-year-old in bed by 9 p.m. (the suggested bedtime if he has to wake up at 6:45 a.m. for school)? If a working parent doesn’t come home until after 6 p.m., how can she get her five-year-old fed, bathed, and ready for bed by 7 p.m.? And even it it’s possible, how can they squeeze in any quality time together?

We asked parenting expert Deborah Gilboa, MD, author of Get the Behavior You Want... Without Being the Parent You Hate! for some words of bedtime advice:

There’s a Range of “Ideal” Sleep Hours.

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Photo by Marc Romanelli/Getty Images

The American Academy of Sleep Medicine recommends that school-age kids get between 9 and 12 hours of sleep a night—and anything in that range could be right for your kid, says Gilboa. “You need to look at your child more closely than any chart,” she says. “While these guidelines make sense when we look at populations of kids, each child, just like each adult, is different.”

Sleep Is Important, But So Is Together Time.

“Studies that show the value of family dinner and reading at bedtime are at least as compelling as sleep, so what should you sacrifice?” Gilboa says. “If the evening is the only time your child's schedule connects with yours, push bedtime a little later so you can spend time together. If you can fit in reading together earlier in your child's day, do that. Flexibility is one of the most important parenting skills.”

If Your Child Isn’t Getting Enough Sleep, You’ll Know.

Watch for signs such as irritability, difficulty with attention, a changed appetite, and trouble waking up, suggests Gilboa. While those could be symptoms of any number of stressors, a lack of quality sleep is likely the culprit. In that case, aim for an earlier bedtime.



You Can Dictate Bedtime, But You Can’t Always Dictate Sleep.

“Don’t worry if your child is lying in bed but not sleeping, as long as she’s not doing something you’ve forbidden like playing with toys or her phone,” says Gilboa. As long as her bed is pretty boring, she’ll eventually fall asleep.

Give a Reward for Getting in Bed.

The best way to motivate your child to turn in is to dangle a carrot at the end of the day, says Gilboa. “Promise some cuddle time after teeth are brushed and pajamas are on, so your child gets more time doing the thing he loves to do if he's on the ball with the things he has to do,” she says.