As a certified child sleep consultant, I am asked a lot about the best bedtime for babies and children; as well as how much sleep children need each day to meet their sleep needs. It makes sense that parents want to make sure that they are providing their children with adequate rest – SLEEP IS SO IMPORTANT! The benefits to both children and parents are countless – mood and cognitive, behavioral, emotional and physical. Well-rested kids are normally happy and healthy and when you have twins, happy and healthy children makes life a lot easier! For parents of multiples, the basic methodologies are the same, but with a few important tweaks.
Why is bedtime so important?
Our bodies have a biological clock and our circadian rhythms (fancy way of saying sleep cycles), which help our children to doze off if we introduce sleep at the right time.
If we introduce sleep too early, we run the risk of our children not having enough sleep pressure built and becoming frustrated with being sent to bed before they are able to sleep. This can be a cause of your children taking 30+ minutes to fall asleep if you put them down too early.
A more common challenge is parents overestimating the amount of time that their children can be awake and putting them down for bed too late. Oftentimes parents think “if I put my baby to bed later, they’ll sleep later.” That would be logical, right? But sleep isn’t logical, it’s biological! Putting your littles to bed too late can result in a series of challenges.
For parents of twins, in addition to all of the above, it is crucial to keep your children on the same schedule, give or take 15-30 minutes. While this may seem daunting at first, especially if they aren’t on a close schedule now, the long-term benefits will be felt by both parents and children.
Late Bedtime Challenges:
#1 Trouble Falling Asleep
Once children cross from tired to overtired, the body goes into fight or flight mode and produces cortisol, which is a stimulating hormone. Imagine the feeling of getting a second wind and trying to lay down to sleep…impossible, right? Children often fight sleep or cry when they are put down for bed too late. If your twins share a room or nursery, if one twin is overtired and fusses, it will also negatively impact their sibling. This is why watching for sleepy cues is so important – we want to avoid severe overtiredness.
#2 Restless Sleep and Waking in the Night
That same cortisol rush that made sleep so difficult at bedtime will also results in restless sleep and night waking. Sleep after a cortisol rush isn’t as restorative.
#3 Super early wake time
Have you heard the expression that ‘sleep begets sleep’? The more sleep your children get, the more they will want to sleep, whereas a late bedtime can result in an early wake time.
#4 The trifecta
All of the challenges above result in less overall sleep. Children with later bedtimes overall get less sleep and they don’t normally make up for it with day sleep or sleeping in.
Using the chart below will give you a really good indication of how much sleep your children need and an age appropriate bedtime for them to ensure that they are meeting their sleep needs.
Sleep Needs and Bedtime by Age Chart:
For bedtimes, you’ll notice a range. When children miss naps or take a short nap, they will likely need a bedtime on the earlier end of the spectrum. Also, in the case of twins, especially fraternal twins, each child’s sleep needs may be different. If you know one twin needs more sleep, stick with a 15-30 minute earlier bedtime for that twin.
If your child is perfectly happy around dinnertime– mood at this time is a great indicator on how well rested they are overall – and if they are meeting their sleep needs, they may be ok staying up closer to the later end of the spectrum. With twins, you you will want to watch the signs that your more sensitive sleeper is exhibiting and follow their needs to get/keep both children on track.
If you and your children are struggling to get the right schedule and enough sleep, please schedule a no-cost 20-minute chat today so you can learn more about working with me. Also, check out my reviews on Facebook!
About the author
Christine Brown, TLC’s Sleep Associate, lives in Nashua, NH with her husband and is the proud mother of twin boys, Nicholas and Ryan. After challenges with teaching her boys to be healthy sleepers, a passion was born to help exhausted families on their journey to healthy sleep. Christine graduated from the Family Sleep Institute, an evidence based training program, where she gained hands-on knowledge to help infants, children and families to create healthy sleep habits. She completed over 250 hours of study in the field, including specialty courses on multiples, lactation, special needs, positive parenting, nutrition and SIDS prevention. She specializes in helping families with multiples, babies, toddlers, preschoolers and those that experienced infertility. You can reach Christine at email@example.com for more information on our online Twins & Sleep class or private sleep consulting.