Should Bedtime run on Schedule?

September 4, 2015 Published by


This week a primary school posted this bedtime schedule for children who are now back at school:
Screen Shot 2015-09-02 at 11.53.45


While we understand that children need an adequate amount of sleep, particularly when they have a busy school day to get through, how useful is this really to parents? When children are screaming and carrying on a 10 o’clock at night, will tapping on the appropriate time on the schedule send them straight to sleep? Probably not.

Children are all individuals with different body clocks and energy levels, and they and their parents need to learn to listen and respond to the child’s internal messages. Just like yourself, if your child is not tired, they will not sleep – sending them to bed regardless is not helpful for anyone.

Being allowed to stay up later shouldn’t be exciting, or treated like a prize though. The best parents can do is create the right environment for children to go to sleep when they are tired.


Here are our Top Tips for Helping your Child settle down at Bedtime:


1. No screens in the bedroom, or within 2 hours of bedtime

Here’s the science bit:child-watching-tv

“Although any type of light stops you feeling sleepy, research has shown that light towards the blue end of the spectrum is especially effective at keeping you awake because it suppresses the production of the sleep-inducing hormone melatonin. Unfortunately, computer screens, tablets, smartphones, flat-screen televisions, and LED lighting all emit large amounts of blue light, and so it’s important to avoid them before bedtime.” Richard Wiseman

Watching T.V., playing on computer games and tablets are best avoided in the last 2 hours before their approximate bedtime. Keeping these out of children’s rooms will avoid ‘sneaky playing’.


2. Use relaxing activities to calm children down before bed

Different activities will work with different children. You could try a warm bubble bath, or perhaps cuddle up and read a bedtime story together. A consistent routine may also help, as children learn to expect the arrival of bedtime.


3. Generally, avoid eating before bed

While it’s best not to give children food before bed (in particular, avoid late dinners), if they can’t sleep because they’re hungry, a small piece of fruit is okay. Steer clear of anything high in sugar though as it will wake children up, regardless of their body clock.


4. Tire your child out during the day!

Physical activity is good for so many things, and sleep is one of them. Encourage your child to get plenty of exercise while they’re awake for a better chance of getting them to sleep.


It is important to recognise that your child cannot be ‘clocked’ in and out based on a specific schedule; children may even argue over the time in order to delay going to bed. Instead, provide a suitable bedtime environment, and help your child learn to go to sleep when their body clock tells them to. See Dr Amanda Gummer’s article for more advice on children’s sleep problems.

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This post was written by Anna Taylor

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