Are Your Kids Getting Enough Sleep?

I don’t know about you, but once I’ve done carpool, after school snacks, homework help, extracurricular practice, dinner, and clean up (and that’s just after 3pm), it’s kind of hard to get revved up for the bedtime routine. In fact, if you were to drop by the Reynolds’ house on any given night you would most likely find me drifting into a general malaise (sometimes even spontaneously falling asleep) while my husband gets the last of the kids in bed. (What can I say? He can easily survive on 6 hours a night and I’m an “8 hours or bust” girl.)

My strength is getting up a good hour or two before everyone else–very helpful in the morning, but not so much at the end of the day. Even when my husband and I are working together to get everyone in bed, we are both so tired and ready for a change of pace (like some herbal tea and a good book while the imaginary nanny puts the children to bed) that the process often takes longer than we’d like. In short, we don’t have the greatest bedtime routine.

Why is it so difficult anyway? Well, my 15-year-old always seems to have more homework than after-school hours, and my 11-year-old frequently remembers a missing piece of homework at the last minute as well. Both of them have also been known to stay up after hours with a book and a flashlight.Thankfully, my 8-year-old always conks out quickly (bless her heart–she’s just like her mama!), but my 5-year-old plays every card in her pre-schooler hand for keeping her parents engaged and awake. (This is partly my fault since I frequently allow her to sleep in while helping the older kids get ready and out the door on time for school.) But it’s my bouts of narcolepsy after 8pm that really hinder the bedtime routine. Go figure, but I just can’t get down and disciplined when I’m on the brink of unconsciousness! As a result of this bedtime bedlam, I often worry that my kids aren’t getting enough sleep.

Turns out my concerns are valid. An October 15th article in The Journal of the American Academy of Pediatrics showed that as little as 30 more minutes of sleep at night improved behavior and alertness in children of various ages. (What the Academy doesn’t know is that this comes as no surprise to the children’s sleep-deprived parents who also struggle with “emotional regulation and alertness” when getting less sleep than they need.) Now, if my kids were actually experiencing behavioral and academic problems I might be more concerned (and I think the only reason they aren’t is because I’ve put them on the latest school schedule possible), but even so, this study has me wondering anew what I can do to help my kids get all the sleep they need. Not just so they can perform well, but so they can feel good while doing it. (Heaven knows I act and feel like a crazy person without my requisite 8 hours.)

And so this weekly post is really nothing more than a cry for empathy and support, and (more importantly) a plea for tips, tricks, ideas, and suggestions on how to tighten up the bedtime routine. If getting as few as 30 more minutes of shut-eye a night can make the difference between our children’s emotional happiness and school success or not, then that’s something to stay awake for.

(And now if you’ll excuse me, it’s past my bedtime.)

QUESTION: Do your kids gets enough sleep? How do you get them in bed on time? What tips, tricks, ideas, and suggestions do you have for tightening up the bedtime routine?

CHALLENGE: Please! Share a comment below!
Photo courtesy of Allyson Reynolds


  1. says

    So what you are saying is that I’m not alone in my evening fatigue. Thank you for this post. I am glad we aren’t the only slackers because of our lack of energy in the evenings. I do wish there were a bedtime nanny to oversee and move our ADHD kiddo along each night. Ugh… the thought of it is wearing me out already.

  2. emilyjbw says

    How about all the moms and doctors in America lobbying our governments to impose restrictions on homework, due to the findings of the AAP? That would make things a LOT easier . . .

  3. Julia Jacobsen says

    I felt like you were describing my life, Alyson! The challenge for us comes in the age differences and staggering bedtimes. The younger kids are the victims of less sleep than they need. This year we set bedtimes for our 6 and 9 year olds, and the weeks or nights we are successful, my husband and I drop everything to make sure they are getting to bed at that time. The good weeks, everyone wakes up more refreshed and a little earlier. On bad weeks, they all struggle to get up. It is a constant fight. It was so much easier when they were all 10 and under. Then they all went to bed at 8 or 8:30. But it is worth the fight. I do feel like I am fighting for them to get the right amount of sleep this year, and I have seen some success. Keep fighting!

  4. says

    As my oldest kids have grown, my little ones bedtimes get later and later. Too much going on, soccer, scouts etc that make us get home later etc. Even on nights when we’re home often I don’t realize the time and they don’t get to bed till 9 (my two littles are 5 and 2). I don’t have the answer for you, but understand the nightly narcolepsy. I don’t love our night time routines either. I admit I don’t read stories at night (but I do during the day when I’m much more fun :) and I’m ornery at night! So I’ll just say I hear ya sistah!

  5. Sarah G says

    My oldest is 2… I always read a book for bedtime routine, but depending on how tired I am he’s allowed to pick a long, medium or short one. And often I limit to the short one… Ya know, one of those 10 page board books with 1-2 sentences per page. We read some longer books at other times, but for now 1 book is 1 book to him which allows me to keep the routine up, even when I’m exhausted.

  6. says

    We have a very purposeful bedtime routine. Yes we have wiggle room but it was super strict when my now five year old was well…age 0-4 ha ha! Now we’re trying to reconfigure it a bit to work with his age and needing a little later (as in 15-20 minutes) bedtime. But what has helped with morning and night time is not just a routine (bath, pjs, brush teeth, pick out clothes for the next day, book, bed) but to have a chart that is hung up in his room. He still doesn’t know how to read so I did it with pictures but older kids could just have it written out. It takes persistence but it helps me a lot. I’m sooooooo tired in the evenings as most Mom’s are and I think it also has a lot to do with our “shift” needing to be over for the night! So I’ve made bedtime a ritual and tweak it as little as possible but when necessary. I don’t have older kids but I think it’s could be possible to work something out with them so that by a certain time of day the parents “shift” is over and you expect them to be in their rooms reading and prepping for sleep. It’s definitely going to be a bigger challenge with the different age groups. But maybe little kids should somehow gently learn that the older kids did their early bedtime “sentence” and that they have to do theirs. And then maybe this will all get thrown in my face when I have olders and youngers. Darn it! 😉

  7. says

    I have always been a firm believer in routine. We do the same things every night and it helps. We start getting ready at the smart time. We do the same things and the kids know what is happening and what is expected. At 4 and6 they are sent to put on jammies and brush teeth. I then come up to read, sing, and have prayer. If I just keep this going I hope it continues even as they get older and bedtime shifts to a few minutes later.
    There is also a great article in the book Nurture Shock that talks about sleep and kid’s health and school performances. It really is a very informative article and interesting to read.

  8. says

    When I had my first baby, one of the first parenting books I read was “Healthy Sleep Habits, Healthy Child”. It is one of the only ones I recommend, but it shows all the scientific research on why sleep is so important, outlines how long they should be sleeping at what ages and ways to help them sleep.
    All I can say, is now I have a 5, 2 and 7 month old and on nights my husband isn’t here to help here in our 2 bedroom apartment, (Which is very often lately), it is SOOO hard!
    The chart is a lifesaver though, and the book helps keep me on track.

  9. says

    I am right there with you on the narcolepsy thing! I could and often do pass out when I sit down for “just a minute”. We have to stagger bed times at our house because my 2 & 4 year old girls would stay up all night playing dress ups if we didn’t. We try for the 8:30 time slot, but it usually takes 30 minutes or so for the older to fall asleep. However, they both don’t sleep through the night and are up in our room by 5:45. It’s exhausting because I would LOVE to get ready in the mornings without little helpers, but what do you do! I agree that routine is helpful, but I’ve found that if I can be extra patient and loving, they seem to feel my calmness and will usually go to sleep better. My 4 year old and 7 year old always ask for a story-I cannot make up stories to save my life, but again I found it wasn’t necessarily the story they wanted, but actually the sound of my voice to calm them down. I usually end up telling them a story about what we did during the day, and always end with “and their mother loved them very much.” They always smile because they know the story is about them.

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