Note: This topic is intended for people whose kids are already on a regular, consistent sleep schedule. If your child is sleeping erratically, or not sleeping through the night, please check out The Sleep Sense Program, and check back here when you and your child are enjoying 11-12 hours of blissful, uninterrupted sleep every night!
So, should you let your children push their bedtimes back on the weekends?
I hear this question a lot, and everyone I know who does it has a good rationale for it.
“He doesn’t have to get up for anything on Saturday, so why not?”
“Kids need something to look forward to on weekends, just like adults do.”
“She knows when she’s tired. I let her sleep when her body tells her to.”
I understand these arguments, and I can even see the value in them, but the truth is, letting your child stay up later on weekends has some detrimental effects that, in my opinion, outweigh the benefits.
• Later Bedtime = Less Sleep
Unless your child is reliably capable of sleeping in for a few hours in the morning, letting them stay up late means they’re not getting the amount of sleep they need.
I firmly suggest that kids over the age of three should still be getting a minimum of 11 hours sleep a night. If you’re putting them to bed at 10, and they’re getting up at 7 the next morning, that’s not even close.
• Weekends are Hectic
Sure, weekends used to be an opportunity for you to sleep in, savor a drawn-out cup of coffee, and stay in your PJs until noon, but now that you have kids, there are birthday parties, play dates, family outings, and so on.
Kids need all of the energy they can get on the weekends, and running on less sleep than they get on a typical weekday means they’re going to be a irritable and unruly. This is bad news regardless, but even more so when they’ve got a day full of activities in store.
• You Need Some Alone Time
As parents, we hardly get any time to ourselves. Putting your kids to bed at 7:00 or 8:00 gives you the opportunity to watch some trashy TV, drink a glass of wine, have grown-up conversations with your spouse, and just focus on you for a little while.
“Selfish!” I can hear some of you thinking. It’s not, I assure you. I’d love to spend my Friday nights watching late-night movies with my kids, but recharging my batteries with some “grown-ups only” time helps me to recharge my batteries and appreciate my kids that much more.
Don’t worry, your kids will be there when you get up in the morning and they’ll be full of energy. You’ll be better equipped to keep up with them if you’ve had a few hours of solitude the night before.
• Kids Won’t Sleep Just Because They’re Tired
I’ve seen my kids play in freezing cold water until their lips turn blue. I’ve watched them chase a soccer ball at a full sprint until they practically collapse. For kids, excitement overrides everything, and staying up late is exciting to them.
They may seem bright-eyed and energetic, but that doesn’t mean they’re not ready for bed, and they’re never going to make the correlation between going to bed late and feeling cranky the next day. That’s your department, and you’re the one who needs to enforce the rules. (Or deal with the fallout the next day.)
Seriously, you’ve worked so hard to get your kids onto a predictable, effective sleep routine. Don’t throw a wrench into the mechanism now just so they can get a little thrill from staying up past their bedtime.
Keep weekends special by filling them with exciting activities and new experiences, and keep the sleep schedule as it is.
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