what's a normal bedtime?
July 28, 2010 4:44 PM   Subscribe

Parents, what bedtimes do you set for your kids, at what ages? Do you have strong routines, how strict are you, what are your special occasion exceptions?
posted by wilful to Pets & Animals (39 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
just a general question regarding what people think is normal. I was at my brother's last night, and was struck by their far more relaxed, unstructured and later approach to everything. Not that I'm judging, I just want to see what the range of approaches is.

With our four year old and one year old, we deal with them together, dinner at 6.30, teeth at 7, reading books until lights out at 7.30. I'm pretty consistent about that, the missus a bit less so.

Not sure when we'd want to vary that, and let the older one stay up a bit later.
posted by wilful at 4:50 PM on July 28, 2010

2 year old, and a 4.5 year old.

We aim for bedtime at 7:30, but it varies between 7 and 8 depending on how organised we are, and how tired they are. Strong routine - dinner, bath, 2 books, 1 story (made-up), 2 songs. We take some of these (books/story/songs) away for bad-behaviour/not listening, etc, if warranted.

We are pretty strict, but at those ages it is pretty easy to be. We've never had the issue where the kids want to sleep in our bed, and we wouldn't allow it anyway.

Exceptions are only if we are out for dinner or something, so we just put them to bed when we get home. By that stage they are so tired they don't care and just go to sleep.
posted by antiquark at 4:52 PM on July 28, 2010

Our kids are now 10 and 12 and we still stick to 8PM bedtimes although that usually means lights out at 8:30. Exception get made for evening events and randomly in the summer, but in the school year it's 8PM, 7 days a week. We're somewhat strict I guess.

Now, to be fair, some days our kids are up pretty early but they usually just lay around reading so it's not as bad as when they used to get us out of bed at 6 AM on weekends. Even so, as our son approached adolescence he's sometimes still asleep at 7 AM.

After having done this for so long our kids are pretty used to a solid 8 hours of sleep and if they don't get it you can see the difference.
posted by GuyZero at 4:59 PM on July 28, 2010

I'm not a parent, but am a product of a six-parent family (my natural parents, their second spouses, my stepbrother's mother, and her second spouse,) plus a multitude of opinionated aunts, uncles, grandparents, and step versions of the same.

For me it was my age in hours from age seven until nine, then 9pm in bed, 10 to 11 lights out until I was 12 (meant I had to read by nightlight.) Then I was homeschooled and there was this period where no one noticed I was staying up till 3am (I've had insomnia since at least 2nd grade.). I went to college when I was 16, so no one bothered with a curfew or bedtime at that point.

The only strictness for me, my five siblings, or many cousins was when you had to get up early or were abusing your "we won't notice if you stay up reading" privileges (my dad confiscated "Voyage of the Dawn Treader" around 2am when I was ten.) Oh, and you HAD to go to your room at bedtime; I watch SuperNanny and it's like an alien world.

Special exceptions were the 4th of July and New Year's; in theory they would make us go to bed after the stuff on TV and the local fireworks were done, but those were usually times we ended asleep on someone's living room floor and took ourselves to a proper bed or sofa around sunrise.

Everything was like this for the three of us now 29 or older. The 14 to 25 year olds got away with quite a lot more (no one confiscated any books, 9pm bedtimes at age 6, etc.). The only iron thing is not hassling parents after about 10pm.
posted by SMPA at 4:59 PM on July 28, 2010

When I was little, bedtime was 7:30 pm, summer and winter. (This used to hork me off in the summer, going to bed in broad daylight). Mom and Dad were less strict when we went to friends' cottages or houses for parties - then we could stay up later and Mom and Dad would bundle us in blankets and we'd sleep on the ride home. I once broke the rules and stayed up late reading Nancy Drews and eating Fruit Loops. That happened a grand total of once.

My sister keeps her four kids on the same schedule, for what it's worth.
posted by LN at 5:06 PM on July 28, 2010

7.5-year-old boy, very responsible, starts getting ready for bed at 8:30 with an eye toward a 9:00 bedtime, but if the night's chapter of Harry Potter is particularly long, no big deal if it's like 9:15.

6-year-old-next-month girl, less responsible, also starts getting ready for bed at 8:30 with an eye toward a 9:00 bedtime, but only gets much shorter chapters of books ("Little House on the Prairie") or one very short entire kid book ("Officer Buckle & Gloria"), generally in bed by 9:00.

4.5-year-old boy, even less responsible than most 4-year-olds, starts getting ready for bed more or less right after dinner, then gets some extra time to play to make it an 8:00 bedtime. Pretty much on the nose every time.

If we're out doing something, we don't break it off just to get them home, but it does occasionally provide a good guidepost for leaving friends' houses.

We move a bedtime when we notice that the kid is consistently waking up before their communal wake-up time of 7:30.
posted by Etrigan at 5:11 PM on July 28, 2010

Not a parent, but my dad insisted my "bedtime was 10:30" well into high school. Really.

Honestly, I lost a bit of respect for him over this. Because a) he was babying me, b) he had no rationale besides "because I said so" (I never had trouble waking up), and c) I could see it was just an attempt to assert his authority because he got walked over in other ways. Oh and, d) this policy was applied to me but never my brother, and no explanation was ever given for this.
posted by drjimmy11 at 5:15 PM on July 28, 2010

One year old and three year old. Bedtime is supposed to be 7:30pm, but because we are disorganised it usually ends up being 8pm, and then by the time everyone falls asleep its 8:30pm. Exceptions are made for anytime we go out in the evening (visit friends, restaurant, daytrip etc), and we just put them to bed whenever we get back. They are too young to appreciate staying up late for something special IMO, so I don't do that yet. We have a routine, bath night is every other night, but with or without bath its just pyjamas, teeth, get into bed and read 2 stories, lights out, snuggle. My three year old has taken to reading his books (he can't read, but he has memorised them) after lights out and falling asleep with book in hand. I'm tempted to get him a small reading light so he doesn't have to strain to see by the nightlight, but that's probably just encouraging him to sit up and avoid sleeping.
posted by Joh at 5:20 PM on July 28, 2010

16 month old and 3.5 year old.

Family dinner sometime between 5 and 6, depending on when I get home from work. 16 month old goes to bed sometime between 5:45 and 6:15 depending on how much of a mess she is. 3.5 year old plays then takes a bath until sometime between 6:30 and 7, then we read books and bedtime. Always in her room by 7.

Changes we've made over time:

We used to let her play or read in her room at bedtime until whenever, but she started to push it really late so now she has to be in bed by 8, but she can have a few books in there. We used to read one book at bedtime, now we read an extra one on top of that if she behaved well the night before, which cut the constant trivial calls for mom and dad right out.

Routines are strong enough that for a new babysitter we just tell the 3.5 year old to remind her if she misses something.

Exceptions almost only for when we're out somewhere. It'll probably change as the 16 month old gets older, but right now that 6pm time is out of necessity. If we keep her up longer than that she just lays on the floor and says "night night".
posted by true at 5:23 PM on July 28, 2010

Oh - and when people were little, it was pretty much "whatever doesn't annoy us too much, goes." I had a 6-7 bedtime back to before I can remember, but no one seemed to mind when I stayed up till 9 to watch RoboCop on a schoolnight when I was about 5. Until my dad found out, and that was due to the subject matter.
posted by SMPA at 5:27 PM on July 28, 2010

3.5 year old. Dinner somewhere between 6:30 and 7, then play/bathtime. Milk and stories start ~7:45; lights out @ 8:30.

Official bedtime is 8pm, fwiw--clearly not much.

Same routine regardless of guests etc but if we're out doing an activity on the weekend and he's doing OK, we'll let him stay up later.
posted by chesty_a_arthur at 5:32 PM on July 28, 2010

Do people think there's really much relationship between bedtime and get up time? I know that logically there should be, but often i wonder.
posted by wilful at 5:38 PM on July 28, 2010

Do people think there's really much relationship between bedtime and get up time? I know that logically there should be, but often i wonder.

For our kids, yes. Half an hour earlier to bed = half an hour earlier waking up.
posted by antiquark at 5:49 PM on July 28, 2010

For my 12 year old: during the school year and school holidays shorter than 2 weeks: in bath by 8, lights out by 9. His school has a nice late start at 9am.

Summer: it's up to him but no screen time after 8 pm. The alarm is set for 7 am no matter what. He's learned he needs to go to bed on time on his own if he doesn't want to miss out on early-starting activities the next morning.

He's a very wiggly kid who isn't a natural morning person. I can sympathize because I'm not a morning person either and I'd rather die on a different hill than bedtime during the summer when it doesn't matter so much.
posted by jamaro at 6:13 PM on July 28, 2010

Considering that we're doing well to even sit down to dinner before 7:30, it's no surprise that our son never went to bed that early. It was 9pm all his life up until after he started school, then I tried to trim it back to 8:30, which just resulted in him calling me into his room and getting out of bed for half an hour. The teeth-brushing and stories always aimed at the appointed hour. Getting him up at 7:10 am was never a problem, so we let it drift back to 9pm. If he's fighting a cold, he climbs into be earlier with no hassles. I always envied people who talked about their kids going to bed at 7:30 or 8pm, but he seems to get enough sleep.
posted by ThatCanadianGirl at 6:14 PM on July 28, 2010

My daughter is 7 years old. We don't have much in the way of a bedtime, but she has to be in her room and doing something quiet by about 9:30. My kid is an extreme night owl like I am, so I have given up on fighting for a specific bedtime as long as she seems well-rested.

If I just let her be, after a week or so of school starting she will usually wake up on her own at the right time. The only times I can remember her not being up within 10 minutes either way of 7:30 on a school day were when she was sick.

We can get away with it because I work from home and our school doesn't start until 8:40 here. We live right by it too, so if I boot her out the door at about 8:30, she gets there with plenty of time to spare before the bell.

During the summer, there is really no bedtime at all unless we have to be places in the morning. She does have to be in her room and quiet by about 10-ish, but that's more so I get some personal time and don't go insane.

When I was married, working full time and my ex's kids lived with us, we both had to be up at like 5 am to get all the kids ready and out the door to school or daycare. Back then, I was a lot more regimented about early bedtimes and all that because I had to be.

Something interesting I've noticed is that even if I don't push bedtime, my daughter will basically regulate her own sleep if she's more tired than normal. If I think she seems extra exhausted, of course I will make her go to bed early. But she largely does this by herself. To the point where she'll just get her PJs on and tell me, "Well, I think I'll go to bed now!" I've been telling her for a long time that if she's tired, she doesn't need to wait for me to tell her it's bedtime. Likewise, I tend to take the approach that if she's not tired she can stay up and do things until she is, within reason.

I'm a freelancer and we live a pretty unstructured life around here. I know the way we do things around here really wouldn't work well for everyone though.
posted by howrobotsaremade at 6:21 PM on July 28, 2010

We have an 8-year-old girl. During the school year: in bed at 8:30 with stories for 15 minutes or so. In the summer/long breaks, 9:00. During the school year, she gets up at 6:45 am; in the summer, generally between 7:15-7:45 am. We should probably get her up earlier during the school year, as she has less than an hour from waking to out the door. But with two working parents and one kid, we're all efficient and practiced in the morning routine. So she's a 10-hour/night sleeper, generally.
posted by girlbowler at 6:30 PM on July 28, 2010

We start the bedtime routine at 7pm, and usually have a tuck in at about 7:45. I find that the bedtime doesn't have a direct impact on wake up time, I wish it did.

Also, I LOVE that you put this in 'pets & animals'. Made me chuckle.
posted by Nickel Pickle at 6:39 PM on July 28, 2010

10 and 7 years old. Get ready for bed and read stories until about 8:15. Younger lights out at 8:30, older at 9. Both usually fall asleep fairly quickly, with the older waking up earlier and reading in bed. Few exceptions - only if we're out and we're not generally out too late. I find that I always pay for a late night the next day, so I try to avoid it and stay as consistent as possible.
posted by Sukey Says at 6:46 PM on July 28, 2010

Do people think there's really much relationship between bedtime and get up time?

My 7-year-old can wake up anywhere between 5 am and 7 am, regardless of what time he goes to bed (which is usually lights out at 7:30 pm). Part of it might just be summer vs winter, though for awhile he was sleeping for nearly 12 hours straight! I had no idea how he was able to sleep that long, but he did. He will also wake up early even if staying up late for a special occasion, such as fireworks.
posted by Wuggie Norple at 7:02 PM on July 28, 2010

I'm not a parent but I felt I'd chime in on my childhood. I had absolutely no structure or routine and was allowed to stay up as late as I wanted, even in preschool age. I routinely would get a couple hours of sleep and as I got older (jr high and high school) my regular sleep schedule was to get a couple hours at night then nap in the day or go 24 hours plus without sleep then crash for a day. When school was out I'd stay up all night and sleep all day.

This lack of structure and poor sleep hygiene has been detrimental on my mental health and well being well into adulthood and I still struggle with holding a normal schedule. I think it has definitely contributed to my depression and anxiety.

I am amazed by all the parents here who have such wonderful routines and schedules! Your children are very blessed and even if they fight you on it, deep down they will feel cared for! So I definitely think there is something to be said for a structured bedtime.
posted by rainygrl716 at 7:17 PM on July 28, 2010

We have a 1 year old and a 3.5 year old. The 1 year old goes to bed at 7:00, and the 3.5 year old goes to bed at 8:00. When the 1 year old turns 2, the bedtime will change to 8:00.
posted by axismundi at 7:18 PM on July 28, 2010

We have a 2 year old and a 4 year old. Bath is at 7:30, the 2 year old is asleep by 8:30, the 4 year old has lights out by somewhere between 8:30 & 9...and often doesn't fall asleep until 9:30 - sometimes until 10. He wakes up at 6, and changing bedtime (either earlier or later) doesn't change his wake up time. The 2 year old wakes up between 7 & 8. The only time this changes is if I can manage to get the 4 year old to skip his nap. Then both children are in bed by 8, which I much prefer. The 4 year old has never needed as much sleep as is supposedly necessary.
posted by Cuke at 7:50 PM on July 28, 2010

Age 7 and 4. In theory, 7.30pm, in practice, more like 8.30pm and on bad nights no sleep till 9 or 10. Every now and then they will become obviously sleep-deprived (whiny, brittle) and we'll become Bedtime Hardasses until they revert to their usual cheerful and resilient selves.

They wake up at 7am whatever happens.

(You know what bites? Jetlag in children bites. It's better now they can talk and have things explained to them, but there was one episode where an infant who shall remain nameless went five days without sleeping more than an hour or two, and therefore so did I. I had never literally *fainted* - as in, passed out and hit the floor - from tiredness until then. Fun times!)
posted by rdc at 8:01 PM on July 28, 2010

At age 2, our daughter goes to bed at 7:30. She went to bed at 6:30 from 0-6 mos and at 7:00 from 6 mos to ~10 mos. Since then it's been 7:30 though there is some flexibility. Rarely is it earllier, but it's often later, say 8:00 or 8:30. She wakes up at about 6:30 am.
posted by otherwordlyglow at 8:14 PM on July 28, 2010

Forgot the routine. There is some degree of routine. 3 or so books on the big bed, singing song in the toddler bed, then hugs and kisses. Special exceptions are for when we go out in the evening (rare).
posted by otherwordlyglow at 8:17 PM on July 28, 2010

2 year old, 6.30 to 7.00 bedtime.
posted by Sebmojo at 8:27 PM on July 28, 2010

We have always set a strict bedtime (and naptimes when they were infants) for our twins. It always worked really well.

When they were infants, and they started having trouble hitting the bed/naptimes, we adjusted them -- we were trying to bring consistency, not forcing them onto a schedule -- and stuck to the adjusted times until it stopped benefitting them again.

Now that they're four, their bedtime is 8:00 (that is, everything stops and the bedtime routine begins at 8, which has them in bed and asleep between 8:45 and 9.) We've tried 7:30, but it's too early, and 8:30 is too late. When they were three, it was 7:00, and we ended up at 8:00 because 7:00 started being too early (they were too alert.) Again, the goal isn't to hit a specific schedule, but to try a time for a few weeks, and if it works, stick with it until it's not working any more.

Ultimately, for us it's not about being strict -- it's about being consistent. If a time usually works for them, we find that by kicking off the usual routine at that time they'll have an easy time falling asleep even if one of them is sick, or rowdy, or the day is atypical. So in that respect, it's not only important to start the routine at the same time, but keep the routine more or less the same.

Oh, and they wake up around 7am, and have for the last few years.
posted by davejay at 9:39 PM on July 28, 2010

Uh, maybe we want to move this question out of the pets & animals category?

But if you're really asking, our dogs go to sleep at around 11pm.
posted by The ____ of Justice at 12:49 AM on July 29, 2010 [1 favorite]

1.5 and 3.5 yr old. Bath or shower at 1800, bed to read books between 1900 and 1930, lights out between 2000 and 2015. The routine is more important than the time, which depends on whether they've had a nap during the day or not - no nap means earlier to bed.
posted by obiwanwasabi at 1:12 AM on July 29, 2010

In Italy, where I live, it's common to see small children having exactly the same schedule as the parents: in bed at 10 or 10.30 (!!!), all the meals together as a family, and children that need to be woken up in the morning. This I personally find preposterous.

Children need more sleep, and parents need time off.

I get rid of my kids at 7. That way they sleep more, and I can have some adult time, work (free lance), or sleep myself. In the morning they come to pull us out of bed, because they wake up of natural causes.
We have breakfast together, but then they have lunch at 11.30 (grown-ups at 12.30) and supper at 18 (grown-ups at 20.00) They are 15 months and 3 1/2 ys. After supper there's some free play and then shower, tooth brushing, stories, cuddling, and at 19.15 usually I'm leaving their room.
posted by uauage at 2:21 AM on July 29, 2010

I had strict bedtimes as a child and I have always had borked sleep when depression/anxeity is peaking. The other anachronism also had strict bedtimes and the man can go to sleep on command. I don't know that it's terribly predictive.

In any case our bedtime routine for the 13 month old starts around 7.00, depending on when she got up from her second nap. It seems like her sleep schedule is adjusting again though, so that may change. Usually we're up at 6.30 as well but she's never been one for 12 hours at night so actual going-to-sleep time is close to 8.00 most nights. We don't go by the clock, we go by tiredness cues but we do have a routine - dinner, bath, bed, books, boob. Going upstairs = bath time/bed time.
posted by geek anachronism at 3:30 AM on July 29, 2010

5 year old: go up at 7, wash, brush teeth, story, lights out around 7.30. Recently we put that back to about 7.30 for 8pm lights out because she was waking up earlier and earlier and we do find a correlation between bed time and get up time.

8 year old: go up around 8, lights out around 8.30. We're more relaxed about that though - she might read until 9, particularly if there's no school.

Special occasions - if we're out, they can be up until we start to notice them getting cranky through tiredness.
posted by crocomancer at 3:32 AM on July 29, 2010

When I was a kid, it was 9pm during elementary school, 10pm during middle school and no bedtime in high school.
posted by spaltavian at 6:52 AM on July 29, 2010

My older child has always been a low-sleep-needs child (his natural sleep needs now as a teenager are higher than they were as a toddler). By age 4, he only needed 10 hours of sleep a day, which dropped off to 9 hours by around age 7 and 8 hours by around age 10. My younger child would sleep a bit more, but not much. At age 4, IIRC, bedtime was 9ish, with a 7 am wake-up time. That was more like 9:30 in early grade school and 10 pmish from grades 3 on out. Bedtime routine consisted of storytime and tooth brushing for as long as they would tolerate it (I think they were jointly tolerating me reading 20 minutes of Harry Potters each night when they were in 2nd and 4th grade, respectively). I've never been a nightly bath parent, and am pretty free-range in general.

For comparison's sake, my sister and her husband work retail hours and don't get home until 8:00 pm-8:30 on the nights they work. Her kids have always stayed up to what most parents would consider insanely late hours (11 pm-midnight or later), except when they are in school. But if the whole family is working on a schedule where you eat dinner at 9, go to bed after 11 pm and don't have to be up until 9 am at the earliest, there's nothing wrong with it. The question of when to go to bed absolutely has a relationship to the question of when you have to get up, and that can vary a lot from family to family, and school to school even.

For what it's worth, my reaction to 7:30 pm bedtimes for preschoolers is probably about what most people's reactions would be to a 9-10 pm bedtime for preschoolers (insane!). My thought patterns are shaped by never being a stay-at-home parent. I think: If you're not getting home from work until 6 pm or so, how can you fit in sufficient family time if your kids go to bed at 7:30?
posted by drlith at 7:47 AM on July 29, 2010 [2 favorites]

Four kids, ages 10 months through 7. Bedtime target for the older three is 8:00, although we're not the best at promptness. Routine is pajamas, tooth brushing, bedtime story, prayers, hugs and kisses, and bedtime. The 7 year old can read in bed until 8:30. The 2.5 year old is horrible about shouting at his brother and getting up to play or make demands, and frequently doesn't get to sleep until 9 or so. On the other hand, if he's tired earlier, he's the only one who will go to bed on his own. The baby goes to sleep when she's damned well good and ready. It can be anywhere from 7 to 11 for her. I'm trying to establish a routine, but she isn't interested in anything but playing until she's tired and then nursing to sleep.

They all tend to be early risers, regardless of when they go to bed. If they're up late at night, they still get up at the same time - they're just cranky all day. They've recently moved their typical wake up time from 5:30-6 to 6:30-7, which is nice. The oldest used to come stand next to my bed at around 5 and stare at me until I woke up. Creepy as hell.

I always had a 9 p.m. bedtime as a kid, no routine. I could never ever fall asleep that early (and still can't, unless I'm way behind on my sleep), and I always had trouble getting up in the morning (and still do, regardless of how much sleep I get).

I've been curious about this lately as well, since we've had the neighbor kids knock on the door wanting to play well after our kids are pajamaed and on their way to bed. I was wondering if we were putting our kids to bed ridiculously early.
posted by Dojie at 8:19 AM on July 29, 2010

My parents said I had to be in my room by a certain time (I can't remember what it was - this was before middle school, after that I didn't have a bedtime), but that I didn't have to sleep.

I remember learning to go to sleep when I actually felt tired as opposed to having someone dictate what time I had to be in bed. At times, I remember staying up until well after midnight just playing by myself. I didn't need much sleep as a child though.
posted by parakeetdog at 1:23 PM on July 29, 2010

Our 3 year old goes to bed at 9:00 PM. It sounds late, I know. We spent a lot of effort putting her to bed earlier, starting routines earlier, etc., and you know what? She still didn't fall asleep until 9:00. She can lay there and fidget for an hour or more, but no sleep. My theory is that it's because she gets a nice long nap at daycare. Once she outgrows naps, we will move bedtime up about an hour.
posted by Knowyournuts at 3:03 PM on July 29, 2010

no kids, but here's my own experience:

when i was in elementary school, my bedtime was 7, except on sundays, when I got to stay up until 8 to watch "Life Goes On". (Which is odd: I was not allowed to watch anything other than news and sports... and that.)

at some point, I don't remember when, but probably also related to some tv show that my parents deemed something I could watch, it got pushed back to 9, but it stayed 9pm until I was at least a junior in high school. the idea was that since I got up at 5 or 530 for school in the morning, and kids "need" to have at least 8 hours every night, therefore I had to go to bed at 9.

of course, since my parents' tv was right outside my bedroom, and the streetlight directly across from my window, i still didn't actually go to sleep then... i just put a dark shirt or sweatpants or something across the bottom of my door and did my homework until about 12 or so, then went to sleep....

I still don't need much sleep.
posted by FlyingMonkey at 7:33 AM on August 1, 2010

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