EXPERT Q&A

Is it important to set a regular bedtime for kids?

Regular bedtimes for children are important to their developing minds and bodies. Expert Martha Tyler provides guidance to parents on how to adjust children’s bedtimes to accommodate summertime activities.

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Question

I try to set regular bedtime schedules for my children since it’s good for both them and me. This works well for the school year, but during summer breaks, is it okay to offer flexible bedtimes if the kids are engaged in creative activities that go beyond their usual bedtimes? What should I think about when making my children’s bedtime schedules, and what is considered adequate rest for children?

Answer

This is an excellent question and I see what you mean about summer schedules being different than the school year. To start, research tells us that it is very important for children to have a regular sleep schedule. Adequate sleep improves children’s behavior, attention, learning, and memory, and having a consistent schedule sets expectations for everyone involved to have a regular bedtime.

Recognizing that summertime is magical for children—and they only get so many summers—it may be appropriate to be flexible with children’s summertime sleep schedules and bedtime routines. As you consider mixing things up for your children, however, here are some things to keep in mind to best determine what will work for your family.

  • Consider your children’s schedules. How busy are your kids this summer? What time do they need to be up by? Will they have weeks when they are at camp and they will have to be up early? Or is the summer mostly free time? If there will be weeks that they will have to be more on a school schedule wakeup time, keep in mind that it can take up to a week or two to reset circadian rhythms. 
  • Take time to adapt to a new sleep schedule. When you push bedtime back, you’re basically changing your child’s time zone. Treat it like you would if you were going somewhere on a trip. A gradual build up to a new sleep schedule and a gradual build up back to their school sleep schedule is going to serve them the best. Look at your summer calendar and decide what will work best for moving bedtime around. Keeping in mind that you should leave about three weeks to transition in and out of any particular bedtime. 
  • Consider how your children will handle sleep changes. How are your kids about sleep? Can they sleep anywhere or do they need to be in their bedroom with all their familiar belongings in order to fall asleep? In the past, when you’ve they’ve had a different schedule (either through travel or some sort of emergency situation) how have they done adjusting? If sleep schedules have been tricky in the past, I would not suggest adjusting. If this hasn’t been a problem, then I’d say go ahead and allow changes to bedtime!

In the end, it is likely fine to adjust your children’s sleep schedules during the summer. However, if you notice major changes in your children’s behavior or mood, you might reconsider making any changes. Further, if you are struggling to set a new bedtime routine for your children or return to your former one, please see some tips here.

Summertime is very special for children and it’s important to honor that while also ensuring your young ones get adequate sleep. We hope this is helpful, and remember, we are here for you!

Meet The Expert


Martha Tyler

Martha has her Masters in Education and is a certified Positive Discipline Parent Educator. She has worked as a sitter, nanny, tutor, or teaching artist over the past 20+ years. In addition, Martha has hosted a child care podcast, Chronicles of Nannya, for several years. She is also the co-founder of Compassionate Childcare LLC and is thrilled to be able to share her experience, knowledge, and resources with CareNectar!