Too Small to Fail: Bedtime

Go Mighty is partnering with Next Generation and the Clinton Foundation to sponsor this post as part of the Too Small to Fail campaign, which is all about making smarter babies. I am pro smarter babies. Babies of all sorts, if you must know. And what’s more, I like soft things in general.

A few weeks ago, Hank’s dad emailed saying he’d read some articles about how regular bedtimes make it easier for kids to do well in school. So we made sure we were putting Hank to bed at the same time in our respective households, and committed to making it a strict deadline during the school year, in contrast to the summer of all-hours chocolate binges with the Ooompa Loompas.

Oddly, it hadn’t occurred to me that fudging bedtime by 20-30 minutes could affect Hank’s behavior and abilities in school. And though “sleep = good” isn’t rocket science, life sometimes gets in the way of a steady bedtime, for me as much as him. Still, I never connected those slips to extra stress over a spelling test or whatnot.

The message was reinforced last week at Camp Mighty, as Go Mighty launched a partnership with Next Generation and the Clinton Foundation on their Too Small to Fail campaign. Too Small to Fail is aimed at educating communities about how to give tiny kids, particularly age zero to five, a leg up before they enter school. (Too Small to Fail? You are killing me with that name. Oof.)

Anyway, one of the simple things the program advocates is a regular bedtime for kids. Which I did not have growing up, did you? Or have you adopted the habit for yourself or your kids?

A bunch of bloggers, including me, have added goals on Go Mighty around spending more time with the kids in our lives, you can see them unfold here. You can also join in by adding #gomighty4kids in the tag field of your kid-related goals. But only if you’re into reduced crime rates and a larger tax base.

17 thoughts on “Too Small to Fail: Bedtime

  1. Adequate sleep makes a HUGE, ENORMOUS difference for me, my kids, and most people in general, big and small.

    I know that when I am sleep deprived I can’t focus, jumble my words, my memory doesn’t work, I get extremely short-tempered and have no control over my emotions, my coordination goes haywire and I become super clumsy….and I’m a grownup with lots of experience and pretty good resources. Imagine a kid now.

    With both my kids it’s like night and day. The difference between full meltdowns, screaming fits, hyperactivity, inability to concentrate, and decent, calm behavior. Especially my 6 yo. He literally goes from the worst kid in the world to the best kid in the world if I put him to bed a little early.

    It is a pain in the ass to get dinner on the table by 6:30 (especially on nights when I don’t even get home from work until then – thank dog for slow cookers), but if I don’t, the bedtime creep happens.

    If you are interested, this book (“Sleepless in America: Is Your Child Misbehaving…or Missing Sleep?” by Mary Sheedy Kurcinka) is genius….not only has a lot more research and information on the subject, but also great strategies for HOW to get your kid to sleep more…because that part is not necessarily intuitive or easy.


  2. My 20 month old has had a regular bedtime since about 6 months old. It’s currently 7:00 now that she’s taking one nap a day. If necessary (like due to a short nap), we aim for 6:30. The other night we went to see my parents and she didn’t go down until close to 8. And guess what? She woke up twice, had a night terror, and was a bear the following day. I miss all sorts of activities due to my strict evening schedule of dinner, pjs, and bedtime routine but it’s so worth it. Maybe I just haven’t hit the age of difficult behavior yet, or maybe she’s just strangely calm for a toddler, but I know a regular bedtime and enough sleep dramatically affect her.


  3. I can’t remember having a bedtime growing up, but I KNOW I did. In high school, my mom would be frustrated if I was still doing homework at 11pm instead of heading to bed.
    As for my kids, they were always night owls when they were younger (pre-school age), so I was not as stringent on bedtimes then. But once they hit the school years, bedtimes were enforced. My 8 year old still tries to push back his bedtime as much as he can and tends to take it extra slow to do any of the nighttime routines. Lately he seems to have a problem with never being sleepy. I’m not sure if that’s the results of his ADD meds or because insomnia seems to be inherent in the family. My teenager is forever dealing with it and trying to get his sleep schedule on track.
    So yes, they have bedtimes and are IN bed at those times, but falling asleep is a whole other matter!


  4. Aside from just getting enough sleep each night to be able to function the next day, a regular bedtime gives kids a feeling of structure, stability and (importantly) predictability in their lives. This helps them to feel calm and safe in their lives so that the anxiety of a spelling test doesn’t tip them right over. It also helps if the routine leading up to bedtime is predictable (eg favourite tv show, then bath, then book, then lights out.) Following a consistent routine every night gives kids the comfort and security of knowing what’s going to happen next. And a secure kid is a happy kid.


  5. can someone put me to bed on time? I hate to be that adult to have to go through childhood regression therapy in the comment section, but I did not have very structured bed times and can probably trace this very bad current habit of not going to bed on time to this. as a step mom and an aunt, I am very good about putting those kiddos down. it seems like bedtime should also feel like a reward for getting to be awake all day.


  6. I remember being so mad at my mom when I was in elementary school and kids would still be outside playing kick-the-can (I could hear them out my window) and I’d be IN BED. Even in the summer: there’d still be light in the sky, but bedtime was 8:00.

    My husband figured out quickly what my mom knew. I am a monster if I don’t get my sleep.

    I do the same thing to my son. Bedtime is nonnegotiable and is only pushed for major holidays or events.

    Sleep is gold.


  7. “Sleep is gold.”

    For real. I just went to see the doctor about this weird sensation I kept getting while laying in bed — it was like waves were coursing through me. I was convinced that I was having anxiety attacks. Turns out I was just over tired and having “hypnogogic hallucinations”. Remedy? Getting more sleep and taking better care of myself. So…yeah.


  8. My sons, ages four and nearly two, have a strict bedtime (I’ve read those same articles), and so did I, growing up. It only ever gets fudged for holiday occasions, and even then as little as possible. Despite out regular and soothing routine, though, they don’t go to sleep at lights out. Both stay up talking to themselves or playing, for anywhere between twenty minutes to several hours, which is pretty much exactly what I did–and then I grew up to have chronic insomnia problems, which I’d like to spare them, if possible. I have no idea how people are supposed to make their children sleep, since all the parenting guides I can find tie it to bedtime. Aaaaand now I’m pretty much just publicly tooth-grinding, excuse me.


  9. Last year, our son’s kindergarten teach made it part of our family homework to be in bed by 8:00. Love that! Must also give kudos to my SAHD husband for having dinner on the table every day at 5:45 when I get home. His dedication to our goal of having family dinner is a big part of why bedtime is consistent for our two boys.


  10. I think my daughter, 16 months, has never in her life gotten enough sleep. It doesn’t matter how early we start a bedtime routine or how vigilant I am in that routine, she’s down no earlier than 9pm, and up by 7, waking up a few times at night just to remind us that she feels sleep is for loooosers, dude.

    I spent the first fourteen months of her life fretting and wringing my hands to nubbins over it, then finally conceded that maybe this is enough -for her-, -for now-? Or maybe, maybe, she’s a crap sleeper, like me?

    Either way, I hope she doesn’t grow up punching kneecaps.


  11. I had a regular bedtime, but my sister and I would stay up, sneak-reading by nightlight, for hours (or maybe just half-hours) after we were supposed to be asleep. I grew up to be a librarian, and my sister is a teacher. We were doomed from the start.


  12. P.S. Now? I’m asleep as soon as my head hits the pillow, and stay that way for eight hours straight. I have the most absurdly regular sleep patterns. (Why no, I don’t have kids. How ever did you guess?)


  13. My parents were pro-bedtime, in the “I don’t care if it’s July and still light out; 8 p.m. for you, missy” vein–except on Thursdays, when we all watched The Cosby Show together until the late, late hour of 8:30! They also bought me a digital clock and taught me what 7 a.m. looked like, and I was expected to be in my room (though not necessarily asleep) until then. I didn’t love it at the time, but I think it made me into the rock-solid sleeper I am today.


  14. I’ve always been strict about bedtime, not only for my kids’ health, but because that time after they go to bed and before I go to bed is the magic time – my time. Anyway, now my kids are 13 and 11. My older kid goes to bed at nine, wakes up at six, every damn day without my suggestion. He’s unbelievably punctual and loves sleeping. My littler guy is a night owl and only turns the lights out at 10:00 because I insist (and has been caught reading under the covers numerous times.) He can sleep in forever on the weekends, but gets up early for school with no problems and no bad moods. I think everyone’s different and he just needs less sleep.


  15. I’m a big believer in scheduled bed times, too. My parents had strict bedtimes for my sisters & me, and I think we turned out ok. 🙂

    Like someone else said – it’s important for ME to have some time to myself in the evening. I don’t cope well without it, so kids are in bed at the same time every night. Always a few exceptions if grandparents are visiting, holidays, etc.

    (ALSO – It’s really nice to see that you & Hank’s dad try to work together on parenting. I’m sure that’s tough for any parents who have split up.)


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