Are your kids getting enough sleep?

I don’t know about you, but once I’ve done carpool, after-school snacks, homework help, extracurricular practice, dinner, and cleanup (and that’s just after 3 p.m.), it’s kind of hard to get revved up for the bedtime routine. In fact, if you were to drop by the Reynolds’ house on any given night you would most likely find me drifting into a general malaise (sometimes even spontaneously falling asleep) while my husband gets the last of the kids in bed. (What can I say? He can easily survive on 6 hours a night, and I’m an “8 hours or bust” girl.)

My strength is getting up a good hour or two before everyone else, which is very helpful in the morning, but not so much at the end of the day. Even when my husband and I are working together to get everyone in bed, we are both so tired and ready for a change of pace (like some herbal tea and a good book while the imaginary nanny puts the children to bed) that the process often takes longer than we’d like. In short, we don’t have the greatest bedtime routine.

Why is it so difficult anyway? Well, my 15-year-old always seems to have more homework than after-school hours, and my 11-year-old frequently remembers a missing piece of homework at the last minute as well. Both of them have also been known to stay up after hours with a book and a flashlight. Thankfully, my 8-year-old always conks out quickly (bless her heart, she’s just like her mama!), but my 5-year-old plays every card in her pre-schooler hand for keeping her parents engaged and awake. (This is partly my fault because I frequently allow her to sleep in while helping the older kids get ready and out the door on time for school.) But it’s my bouts of narcolepsy after 8 p.m. that really hinder the bedtime routine. Go figure, but I just can’t get down and disciplined when I’m on the brink of unconsciousness! As a result of this bedtime bedlam, I often worry that my kids aren’t getting enough sleep.

Turns out my concerns are valid. An October 15th article in The Journal of the American Academy of Pediatrics showed that as little as 30 more minutes of sleep at night improved behavior and alertness in children of various ages. (What the Academy doesn’t know is that this comes as no surprise to the children’s sleep-deprived parents who also struggle with “emotional regulation and alertness” when getting less sleep than they need.) Now, if my kids were actually experiencing behavioral and academic problems, I might be more concerned (and I think the only reason they aren’t is because I’ve put them on the latest school schedule possible), but even so, this study has me wondering anew what I can do to help my kids get all the sleep they need. Not just so they can perform well, but so they can feel good while doing it. (Heaven knows I act and feel like a crazy person without my requisite 8 hours.)

And so this weekly post is really nothing more than a cry for empathy and support, and (more importantly) a plea for tips, tricks, ideas and suggestions on how to tighten up the bedtime routine. If getting as few as 30 more minutes of shut-eye a night can make the difference between our children’s emotional happiness and school success or not, then that’s something to stay awake for.

(And now if you’ll excuse me, it’s past my bedtime.)

QUESTION: Do your kids gets enough sleep? How do you get them in bed on time? What tips, tricks, ideas, and suggestions do you have for tightening up the bedtime routine?

CHALLENGE: Please! Share a comment below.

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