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It’s time to Go to Sleep, Part 2 (Part 1)

By Barrington Brennen, March 14, 2019, 2009



Good morning everyone!   I cannot help but share again some rules about sleeping and bedtime.  I have been writing about this topic for at least twenty years and realize the parents are still messing up their children’s lives by not setting healthy times to go to sleep at night. Some parents are reluctant to set bed times for their children.  Compared to twenty years ago, and with the increase of electronic gadgets, children are sleeping less and less and are having more health and academic problems.    Hence, here are some rules I’ve presented over the years:


1.  Rise before your children.  Parents are managers of the home.  It is imperative that they show loving, yet firm leadership by their own example.  Getting up in the morning before your child does is a good example.  Although there might not be a problem if a child arises before a parent, the real issue is if the parent appears to be lazy or undisciplined.  Arising before the child helps the child to understand the importance of discipline and provide hands-on supervision and direction.  Don’t be a lazy parent.


2.  Set bed times to allow each child to have at least 9.2 hours of sleep per night.  The latest research indicates that teenagers need at least 9.2 hours to satisfactorily make it through the day.  Eight hours is not sufficient time to sleep for any child under the age of 18.  As stated in my previous article, teenagers who get less than 9.2 hours of sleep a night generally do not do as well academically and socially as those who get more than 9.2 hours of sleep.  Ideally, teenagers thrive best getting 10 to 12 hours of sleep per night.   This generation of teenagers is the most sleep deprived in the history of humankind, and they are suffering physically and mentally because of it.  


When your children get the right amount of sleep, they are more alert in school, less agitated, and healthier physically.  If your children are in primary school, they need at least 12 to 15 hours of sleep a day.  Set the bed time for your primary school children to be the latest 7:00 p.m.   For high school children, set bed time for 8:00 p.m. or the latest 9:00 p.m.  For the first five years of our children’s lives their bed time was 6:00 p.m.   They only went to bed later when we were out visiting or at church.  It is extremely important to avoid connecting sleepiness with the requirement of going to bed on time.   Children (or adults) are to go to bed on time regardless if they are sleepy or not.  This adds meaning to the request: “It’s time to go to sleep.”  It is a failure to train children that they must let “sleep come to them” before they go to bed.  


3.  Do not change the rules during holiday times.   Many parents make a big mistake by dropping all rules for bed time and television watching during holiday times or school breaks.    The principle that must be instilled in the minds of children is that discipline is not seasonal, it is a lifestyle.  Therefore, during holidays, it is okay that children go to bed later or watch a little more television.  However, it is best to set reasonable times to go to bed and how much television to watch.  If your child goes to bed 8:00 p.m. during the school year, do not change that to midnight simply because they have “nothing to do.”   A few weeks of going to bed that late will disturb the equilibrium and nullify discipline habits.  Adding one or two hours later that normal to go to sleep during holidays might be appropriate.


4.  Prepare a healthy meal each morning.  Make sure your children, pre-teenagers or teenagers, get a big, healthy breakfast every day.  This is the fuel for the day.  If you are a vegetarian or meat eater, make sure the breakfast is rich in complex carbohydrates (potatoes, whole grain cereals, oatmeal, grits, yams, plantains, rice) and protein (beans, eggs, fish, tofu, nuts).   Eating whole grain waffles, pancakes, patties, can be wonderful for breakfast. 


5. Control the television viewing times.  Most children do not do well academically or socially watching television for hours every day.  Do not let television view rob your child of important sleep time.   Also, mixing school work and television is a recipe for disaster for school-age children.   Ideally, during the school year, do not allow your children to watch television.  Let them concentrate on their school work and wholesome recreation.  If you feel the need to allow television viewing during the school year, it is imperative that the duration and when they watch be restricted. 




Barrington H. Brennen, MA, NCP, BCCP, a marriage and family therapist. Send your questions or comments to  question@soencouragement.org   or write to P.O. Box CB-11045, Nassau, The Bahamas, or visit www.soencouragement.org    or call 242-327-1980





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