It is 4:30 p.m. and the kids are still running wildly through the house. There is a 5-year-old who’s exhausted from a full day of schoolwork, a 3-and-a-half year-old who has recently decided to give up napping, and a 3-month-old who is learning how to navigate the day-to-day as the third child. I assess the situation and think to myself, Only one more hour until 5:30 dinner, and then we can start the bedtime routine.
No, that is not a typo and, yes, I am saying that our bedtime routine starts somewhere around 6:00 p.m. If you haven’t figured it out already, my children go to bed early.
For me, sleep truly is the key to maintaining my sanity as a parent, especially with three boys under the age of six. My husband and I learned early on just how crucial sleep is to overall healthy development (for adults and kids), and we have not looked back on our parenting lifestyle since. Sure, it is hard to miss evening functions, leave celebrations early, and have limitations on our social life — but the rewards of having healthy, well-behaved and well-rested children make this crazy time of parenting young kids easier to navigate. We are all happier as a result of the decision to have an earlier end to our day.
An early bedtime for the kids means that there are plenty of occasions when my husband does not see the kids at all during the week, and as hard as that may be on all individuals involved, it makes the time they do have together more special. None of this is to say that parents who keep their children awake in order to attend events are bad parents; it’s more about the reasons we’ve prioritized our children’s sleep over our desire to make it to the next party.
Sleep equals more sleep
After reading just about every sleep book on the market, I found that Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child by Dr. Marc Weissbluth resonated with our parenting style. One of his contentions is the notion that a well-rested child will sleep better and longer. In other words, more sleep equals more sleep. We have found this to be true with each of our children from infancy, and maintaining an early bedtime has undoubtedly proven to be a key component to having good sleepers who sleep through the night.
Research supports the benefits of being well-rested
More and more studies are showing the importance of sleep for individuals of all ages, but for children in particular we know that sleep promotes growth, affects weight, beats germs, reduces risk of injury, increases attention span and boosts learning. We notice a significant difference in behavior when the boys are tired (yes, we do allow them to stay up on occasion) and encounter fewer struggles when they are rested. The older two boys are thriving in school and are typically healthy. In fact, it is when they are less rested because of a break in the routine that they catch a cold.
An early bedtime for the kids helps me maintain a healthy relationship & sex life
When the kids go to be at 7:00 or 7:30 p.m., my husband and I actually have a few hours to ourselves to talk, connect and enjoy time without the kids. We are able to support our marriage through the time we have alone, which is an essential component to maintaining a healthy home life and parenting young children.
So, please do not be offended if we turn down the invite for an evening out with the kids. It has little to do with our desire to be out at a social gathering and everything to do with looking out for the well-being of our children — and our own.
A version of this story was originally published in March 2016.