Ask the ASA: Kids’ Bedtimes are Sliding Later

Welcome to Ask the ASA, a regular feature that allows our visitors to ask questions and receive answers from the American Sleep Association!  Use our contact form to send in your questions (or send them to us via Facebook or Twitter), and we’ll select the best ones to receive answers from the ASA.

This time around, Dr. Neil Kline from the ASA addresses a question about a family with bedtime problems.

I’m a parent to a nine-month-old, a two-year-old and almost five-year-old. My nine-month-old still sleeps a lot but I am having trouble with my other two children. The four-year-old used to sleep well and we never used to stay up as late as we do now, but since my husband started working overnight, I am finding it very difficult to go to sleep earlier. My kids are literally staying up all night sometimes. Their father gets home at almost 5:30 a.m. and usually they are asleep before he comes home, but sometimes I stay up so they are up.  I know that if I tell them to go to bed without me it will be a power struggle, and they are happier when we all go to sleep together.  Is not sleeping at an earlier time really that bad? How can I be more organized and wind them down for sleep? 

Dr. Kline says: It sounds like there are a lot of things going on that are beyond the scope of this post. Your family’s schedule has clearly been turned upside down, and that’s impacting the children. One thing that is fairly obvious is sub-optimal sleep hygiene. Sleep hygiene is primarily habits that lead to a good night’s sleep. These include:

  • Maintain a regular sleep schedule – go to sleep and wake up around the same time each day.
  • Get adequate total sleep each night.
  • Have a quiet comfortable bedroom.
  • Avoid caffeine for 6 hours before sleep
  • Cigarettes, alcohol, and over-the-counter medications may cause fragmented sleep.
  • Vigorous exercise during the first half of the day is beneficial for sleep.
  • Avoid watching TV, reading, and other activities in bed. Get your digital devices outside of the bedroom.

This is a good starting point. You should also discuss these issues with your doctor.

Dr. Neil Kline is a representative of American Sleep Association. He is board certified by the American Board of Internal Medicine and the American Board of Sleep Medicine.  For more information on the ASA, visit their website.

Questions for the ASA are edited for clarity.