Sleep is essential for everyone. It is as important for your health as eating a nutritious, balanced diet and physical activity. A good night’s sleep allows your body and mind to recharge while keeping away some diseases.
Sleep is especially important for babies and small children as it allows them to grow and develop proper immune function and behavior.
As children grow, their sleep requirements change over time and you may find yourself wondering what may be the best bedtime for your child.
Preschoolers need 11-13 hours of sleep a day, meaning they should ideally go to bed between 7-9 pm and wake up around 6-8 am.
Continue reading to figure out if your child is getting enough sleep and steps on how to help your child ease into bedtime.
What Time Should a 4-Year-Old Go to Bed?
As sunlight fades, our brains produce melatonin, a hormone that causes drowsiness. Because children have a rise in melatonin earlier in the evening than teenagers and adults, their natural bedtime should be around 7-8 pm, or when the sun sets.
According to the American Academy of Sleep Medicine, 3 to 6-year-olds need about 10-13 hours of sleep a day, including daytime naps.
However, by four years of age pre-schoolers have become quite effective at avoiding bedtime.
How to Tell if Your Child Needs More Sleep
- If your child keeps falling asleep during the day, it may be a sign they are not getting enough sleep at night.
If they lack the energy to do normal tasks and prefer to lie down, if they fall asleep watching TV, reading, or start nodding off during mealtime, you may need to get your little one to bed at an earlier time.
- Conversely, if your child is more hyperactive than usual, they may be sleep deprived. When children don’t get enough sleep, their body makes more cortisol and adrenaline to stay awake, hence the energy.
- They may struggle to pay attention and follow directions. Your little one may have difficulty focusing on the simplest tasks and may seem distracted as a result of sleep deprivation.
- Your child may be cranky, whiny, irritable, or moody due to their lack of sleep. They may cry at the smallest inconvenience and will likely clash with your every request or instruction. They may even fight naptime even when it is obvious they need the rest.
How to Help Your Child Get Enough Sleep
Chaotic and irregular bedtimes can create unhealthy sleep habits in your child and have the potential of disrupting other areas of their lives.
Unreliable sleep times have been linked to hyperactivity, tantrums, and emotionally withdrawn children. Bad sleep habits can even lead to insomnia.
Therefore, it is important to find ways to help your child get enough sleep once you figure out what time your 4-year-old should go to sleep.
- Create a Calm Safe, Relaxing Environment. Aim to create a safe, sleep-friendly environment for your child by figuring out what will help them get to bed with greater ease.
Help your child figure out their lighting and noise preferences, such as whether they’d like complete darkness or a nightlight, or if they’d like silence versus white noise or calming music.
Not only will this allow them to create the type of environment that may encourage them to go to bed, but it will also allow them to make empowering micro-decisions, ultimately ending in fewer power struggles.
Additionally, ensure the room temperature is comfortable and provide them with a comfortable mattress and pillow.
- Allow Comfort Objects for Bedtime. Allowing your child their favorite blanket, toy, or plushy may help them go to bed more willingly. But make sure they don’t go to bed with too many items as they may end up getting distracted instead.
- Keep a Consistent Bedtime Routine. Coming up with a nighttime routine will help your child wind down and prepare for sleep.
Creating a calming environment by dimming the lights, turning off all screens, and removing stimulants, such as chocolate at least one hour before bedtime will help signal the transition to bedtime.
A warm bath, cuddles, and reading their favorite book will also help create a relaxing bedtime atmosphere. According to a study published in Frontiers in Psychology, how you help your child go to sleep contributes to their behavioral development.
Again, allowing your child to select a few things every night, like their pajamas and a book, will help fill their power cup with those coveted micro-decisions and will boost their independence.
- Create a Sleep Schedule. Having a consistent sleep schedule will help regulate your child’s body systems and will also allow your child to know what to expect and when. Furthermore, having a clear nightly bedtime will train your child’s mind to sleep on schedule.
Once you determine your 4-year-old’s bedtime, stick with it. Consistency is key!
Sleep is essential for children’s growth and development. As children grow, their needs change, making it difficult to determine how much sleep they need and what time, for example, should your 4-year-old go to bed.
Figuring out whether your child may need more sleep and how to help them ease into a bedtime schedule will help your child create healthy sleep habits they will carry with them into adulthood.