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What Time Should a Baby Go to Sleep?

by Sharon Perkins

If parents had their way, babies would keep civilized hours, including a bedtime that allowed their weary parents a few hours of alone time each night. But babies don't read the rule books. In fact, your baby probably won't be on the same schedule as your best friend's baby, because each baby is different and also because each household is different. Parent convenience, your baby's need for sleep and what time he awakens should dictate what time he goes to bed.

Sleep Needs

Approximately 90 percent of babies over age 6 months sleep through the night, according to KidsHealth.org. Most need between nine and 11 hours of sleep each night and nap about three hours during the day. Behavior-related issues, such as an inconsistent bedtime or getting used to being rocked to sleep, can interfere with your baby's natural sleep patterns and create bedtime problems, Children's Hospital of Philadelphia sleep expert Dr. Jody Mindell explains in an article on the American Psychological Association's website.

Parent Convenience

Some parents need to wake their children early to get them to the babysitter or day care in the morning or just to spend time with them before heading off to work. The earlier you need to wake your baby, the earlier his bedtime should be.On the other hand, you might get home late from work and want to see your baby in the evening. In this case, you might keep your baby up later at night, although this can have drawbacks. Contrary to popular opinion, babies who go to bed later don't always sleep later in the morning, ZeroToThree.org explains.

Consistency

The more sleep your baby requires, the earlier he'll need to go to bed. Because babies vary in the amount of time they spend napping, as well as how much sleep they need each night, comparing your baby's schedule to that of your neighbor's baby won't do anything but make you feel worse -- or better, if your baby actually has a better sleep schedule. As long as you have a consistent bedtime and going-to-sleep routine and your baby doesn't seem excessively tired during the day, the amount of sleep he's getting is probably right for him.

Early-to-Bed Benefits

An earlier bedtime has benefits for infant sleep. Putting your baby to bed earlier -- even as early as 6 or 7 p.m., in some cases -- might actually help him sleep longer and better, since being overtired can interfere with your baby's ability to fall asleep, according to ZeroToThree.org. Irritability, rubbing his eyes and yawning are signs that he's tired at night, while lack of energy or irritability can be signs of too little sleep the night before.

About the Author

A registered nurse with more than 25 years of experience in oncology, labor/delivery, neonatal intensive care, infertility and ophthalmology, Sharon Perkins has also coauthored and edited numerous health books for the Wiley "Dummies" series. Perkins also has extensive experience working in home health with medically fragile pediatric patients.

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