Sleep routines: naptime vs. early bedtime
Ask any parent – everyone has a different opinion on sleep routines and young children.
There’s no one right answer when it comes to kid’s sleep needs – it varies by child and is affected by different family circumstances (early daycare drop off time, a parent who works late, etc.).
Here are sleep routine stories, suggestions and testimonials from parents who have been there.
- “I have 2 kids and am definitely a proponent of naps. Kids under 5, I think, really need it – it keeps them from getting overtired and cranky when they hit mid-afternoon. So around an hour after lunch, we turn off any source of noise (TV, radio), put the kids in their beds and draw the curtains so their rooms are dim. That usually works.” – Simon, dad of Kayla and Marcus
- “Naps work for my 3-year-old son, but equally important to getting him to sleep is watching the clock to regulate the duration of the nap. His naptime window is from 1-3 pm; I go in and turn on the lights at 3 pm to encourage him to wake up. This way we don’t end up with a super long nap that jeopardizes nighttime sleep.” – Xiao Dan, mom of Roland
- “I believe in the earlier bedtime. I did this for all 3 of my kids, and it helped greatly with school later on. Many of my friends had trouble getting their kids to wake up at a certain hour when they started daycare or preschool, but my kids were all set! I believe setting early bedtimes makes waking up times more consistent, vs., when kids take naps, because — let’s face it — you can’t make your kid nap on command, much less get all of your children to nap at the same time! My kids have active days, so by 7 pm they are more than ready to hit the sack. This makes things more predictable for my husband and myself – we get 4 hours of quiet time in the evenings to catch up on work and things around the house.” – Mira, mom of Yanis, Yani and Heri
- “Early to bed, early to rise. I used to be tethered to the house because of naptime – we couldn’t go anywhere between the hours of 1-4 pm. But I find that getting my son to sleep early meant more productive daytime hours for all of us. If my kid happens to fall asleep in the car, it’s fine. I definitely don’t enforce naps but I am very strict about going to bed at sundown.” – Kay, mom of Phumin
- “I give my daughter rest time, vs. naptime, in the afternoon. She can lie down, read, or sleep. Each day is different, so sometimes she is tired enough to sleep, sometimes all she needs is a little down time. Getting her to sleep consistently for 1-2 hours worked till she was around 3, then she started spending the whole nap hour making excuses to get up – ‘I need a drink! I need to pee!’ and so on. Now it’s no pressure. She lies down, I lie down, we both get a bit of peace and quiet in the afternoon.” – En Ai, mom of Leslie
Whether you do naptime or bedtime, here are a few tips to get your child into a good sleep routine:
- Make associations with naptime/ bedtime – a sleepy-time stuffed animal, or designate certain books to only be read before bed. These are cues that help a child transition from activity to rest.
- If your child always has trouble falling asleep, look to their food and drink intake. Eliminate caffeinated soda drinks and limit sugar.
- Be consistent. Try to put your child to bed at the same time everyday so they know what to expect and can anticipate bedtime.
- Make your child feel secure in their room. Put in a nightlight to assuage any fears of the dark, or for some kids, a wind up lullaby or white noise machine is helpful.
- Regulate TV watching – optimally, no TV an hour before sleeping. The hour before sleeping should be reserved for winding down and bringing the day to a close– picking up toys and putting them away, or setting out clothes for school the next morning.