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For many years when we first became parents — especially the three-kids-age-4-and-under phase — we set early bedtimes for our children. Like really early. Like 5:30 PM early. 6:00 at the latest. It’s almost hard for me to imagine it now, because our life is so different these days, but at the time, nap schedules and bedtimes were a big deal for us.

Especially when they were little, my kids really soaked up their sleep. They would wake up, be busy, busy, busy, then zonk out for naps, then be busy, busy, busy until 5:00 dinner. After that it was baths and bedtime stories, and then they were out for the night. We’re talking 12 to 15 hours of sleep total (naps + night sleep) over a 24 hour period. Sleep is how they recharged for their very busy lives as two-year-olds. : )

At times, our regular sleep schedule made things awkward and was disruptive. We were fine doing social things after 7:00 PM — we’d get a sitter and feel confident that our kids would be asleep the whole time we were gone. But if there was a party or family gathering that took place during the 5:00 to 7:00 range, we would usually leave early, or decline to attend. I remember getting side-eye from other mothers, and even relatives, thinking we were ridiculous and that our sleep schedule was too strict. And maybe we were ridiculous.

But though it wasn’t always ideal, the strict sleep schedule offered huge benefits for us. From what I could determine, all that sleep made for happy, good-natured kids, or at least seemed to help in a big way! At some point I connected the dots that if my kids were acting out, they were probably tired. (I should have assumed this from the beginning, because I’m the same way. For me, exhaustion and bad manners are directly correlated.)

In addition to feeling like I was helping my kids be their best selves, I also LOVED having quiet evenings where I could work on my own projects. In fact, without early bedtimes, I don’t think I ever would have managed to start Design Mom.

So now I’m curious. What time do you put your kids to bed? Is it a specific hour? Or does it range depending on the evening? And have you ever instituted early bedtimes for your kids? If yes, did it work for your family? Why am I asking? I love conversations about sleep — since it’s a universal thing we experience as humans, everyone has an opinion or thought to share, and in the conversations, I seem to always learn another way of thinking, another point or view, or another way to approach life.

kidbed_oceanlifepostersThe Treehouse: A Bedroom for Two Brothers | Design Mom

These days, we still have set bedtimes but they are much later. 5:30 PM isn’t even an option for us any more, and that’s fine. Instead, the goal is just consistency. Keeping to a regular schedule as much as possible makes a big difference for us. There are still exceptions — nights were we don’t make it home until later — but we aim for a regular schedule and we mostly make it.

How about you? Have you found it harder to keep a set bedtime as your kids get older? Or maybe you have a baby or toddler who seems to be schedule-resistant? Also, if you had to rank the importance of diet, exercise and sleep on how they influence your health, what would you put first? (No surprise, I would put sleep first. I love my sleep!)