My 9:30 p.m. bedtime, and other weekend revelations

Babies need a lot of sleep, but they don’t need an infinite amount of sleep. If many — not all! but many — of them are wired to get tired and cranky around 7/7:30 p.m., then they are probably going to wake up by 6 a.m. or so.

I am not a pure night owl by any means. But I’m also not naturally an early-to-bed, early-to-rise sort either. So the early wake-ups have been one of the toughest parts of baby and toddlerhood for me, especially since many of my kids haven’t been great during-the-night sleepers either.

I had been considering my bedtime to be 10:30. This allows me to read to the 6-year-old, relax a bit and make sure the big kids are going to bed, then get a little reading done. But even if I was asleep by 10:45, if I woke up at 5:45 and had any wake-ups during the night, I wasn’t clocking the 7.3-7.4 hours my time log shows my body aims for.

So this weekend, I had a revelation: I should probably aim more for 9:30. Let me state right now that I absolutely hate this. I want to stay up and do stuff. It feels like no fun whatsoever to go to bed at a grade schooler’s bedtime. But it also feels really, really good to fall asleep by 9:45, wake up at 5:45 and — even if I have been up for 30 minutes or so at some point in the night — not be exhausted.

Thus, I went to bed at this unreasonably early time on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday nights this weekend. On two of the nights my husband did full big kid bedtime duty. (Since the baby nurses in the morning, I am, alas, the parent he prefers at 5:45 a.m. — I generally hand him over at 7 a.m or so). Since Sunday is a school night, I made sure that my portion of the 6-year-old’s bedtime routine was done by 9 p.m. Then I had a quick chat with the big kids (and took their phones) and then got ready for bed.

To not feel too sorry for myself, I’m being more pro-active about other leisure time. I’m generally reading or doing a puzzle from 7:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. To ensure I don’t piddle this time away, I’m making sure to have a puzzle or book going, so there’s something I actively want to do (and get to do for an hour!).

This weekend, I finished the 750-piece “Brooklyn Flower Market” puzzle I’d been doing. This one was fairly easy — first of all, because it is 750 pieces (not 1000) and because the art was intricate enough that there was no question where pieces would go. I never had to resort to sorting pieces by shape (as I have had to for some other puzzles with big patches of, say, blue sky). I’m also reading a book about hummingbirds called The Glitter in the Green. Parts are a bit overwritten, but it’s also interesting, and has made me look at our hummingbird feeder, and my oldest child’s school art project replica of Frieda Kahlo’s Self-portrait with Thorn Necklace and Hummingbird differently.

This weekend also featured a few fun-for-me anchor events that made the 9:30 bedtime feel less tragic, too. I ran 8 miles along the Schuylkill River Trail with a friend on Saturday morning. The 11-year-old and I went to Holland Ridge Farm in New Jersey on Saturday late afternoon. He picked 20 lovely tulips, and then — the real highlight — we got lobster rolls from the Cousins Maine Lobster food truck. We are now obsessed. Apparently there is a Philly-based truck too, and it occasionally stops at a mall near our house, so that is now on the schedule. And then on Sunday morning I sang with a very small group (one on each voice part) for our church’s first live, in-the-sanctuary service in over a year. The staff singers are incredible, and so this small ensemble singing is a real treat.

The weekend had its share of frustrations — the puppy and toddler combo is definitely stressful — but looking back over it, any weekend when I run long, enjoy tulips and a lobster roll, finish a puzzle, and sing, is probably a good one.

What time are you going to bed these days? I’m reminding myself that I won’t have to go to bed at 9:30 p.m. forever. Eventually my kids won’t wake up before 6 on weekends. The older ones could probably sleep until noon if I let them!

18 thoughts on “My 9:30 p.m. bedtime, and other weekend revelations

  1. Ideally, I go up to bed at 8:30 and have lights out around 9-9:30. This has been my preferred schedule for years. But we don’t have any big kids – our boys are almost 5 months and 3. The 3yo goes to bed around 7 -7:30 and the baby goes down around 6-6:30 typically. So I still get about an hour with my husband after both boys are in bed. So it’s a nice balance and it’s so necessary w/ the night wakings. Plus our toddler has been waking up extra early lately so I need the earlier bedtime for multiple reasons! I can see how an early bedtime isn’t ideal when you have bigger kids that don’t go to bed so early, though! 10:30 is soooo late for me, though – even pre kids I would not stay up that late! But I’m more of a lark w/ an early bedtime and early wake time!

  2. Puppies and toddlers are the same frustration. It was a great day when we could finally put our puppy in the backyard with no one babysitting. Similar to the same glory when the kids could finally play safely on their own. You will get there!

  3. I go to bed at 9:30 so I can wake up myself around 5:30 and not be exhausted. My kids both go to bed around the same time, and then my husband stays up getting his own fun. I am getting tired of it, but don’t see an end in sight if I want to continue exercise in the morning. On Friday nights I usually go to bed on my own before anyone else does.

  4. I feel ya on the weekend bed time! I recently started implementing a bedtime for myself on weekends (thanks to your Tranquility by Tuesday survey). Usually it’s 10 or 10:30 for me on the weekend now, depending on kids’ activities.

  5. I go to be around 10 p.m. pretty much every night. Occasionally, I go to bed earlier. 3 mornings a week I get up at 4:45 am and while the 10 p.m. bedtime doesn’t get me that 7.5 hours of sleep my by seems to like, I can “sleep in” until 6-6:30 the other 4 days of the week. My 5 and 7 yos are still early risers but we have made them self-sufficient by making sure they can get a pre-poured glass of milk from the fridge that will hold them until breakfast. My 13 yo has been watching reruns of old sitcoms (Seinfeld, The Office, 30 Rock) with my husband and I from 9:30-10 p.m. so I don’t want to give that 30 minutes up. He then goes and ransacks the kitchen for food while my husband and I go to sleep.

    This works for us now, but as the world gets more normal, I can see the 10 p.m. bedtime sliding later sometimes…we shall see.

  6. My bedtime and number of hours I get each night fluctuates over the week: I have fully embraced the “Weekly Mosaic” idea that you taught us. For example, Tuesday nights is date night with my husband and so I’m willing to “call it” at 11 (I have “call it” times, rather than bed times, because I have to give myself 20-30 minutes to wrap up whatever is going on and get ready for bed, plus ~10 minutes of laying in bed before I’m actually asleep). But then I’ll sleep in an extra hour on Wednesday to make up for it.
    I usually wake up around 5a every workday, and average 6-6.5 hours a night (“calling it” at 10-10:30, normally), but then I’ll get a 7 hour boost during my Wednesday sleep-in after Date Night, plus I sleep in on the weekends. All in all, I average 7.5 over the entire week.
    Sleep experts say that is not the way we’re supposed to do it…but this is how I make time for things over the course of 168 hours.

  7. This is just such a perfect example of ‘different strokes for different folks.’ A 9:30 bedtime (or earlier!) is my ideal situation – partially because I’m up early to run (starting at 5 or 5:30 several days a week) and partially because I really struggle to sleep in anyway. I have determined, especially in a pandemic (with limited social activities), that there is very little I’d rather do after 9pm that is more appealing to me than 8 hours of sleep =) I actually got in bed at 8:40 last weekend (it was a wild Saturday night, clearly…) and my 5-year-old tucked me in – ha! (I think he was very confused and a little unsettled with this role reversal) So while you are grudgingly accepting your schedule, I’d be whole-heartedly embracing it. On the bright side for you, as you point out, at least you know this new schedule is temporary!

  8. I am going to bed between 8:30 and 9:30 for the most part. But I’m pregnant, so I also recognize the seasonality of this phase and I try to savor the 9 hours+ of sleep I am getting, because in about 115 days that will drastically change!

  9. My husband gets up at 5 to head to work by around 6, and once he’s up (and so is the dog) it’s hard for me to go back to sleep. So I’ve been going to sleep around 9-9:30 most nights in order to get enough sleep. We both love to read, so we often get in bed to read by 8:30, and while this sounds peaceful and happy, I really don’t like it! I don’t like going to bed so early and I certainly don’t like to get up that early, but I’m hoping this schedule won’t last forever (or even until he retires in 9 years or so). I try to use the morning hours well, because by mid afternoon, I am dragging. Like right now…

  10. With a 5 month old and a 3 year old, who both wake during the night, My bedtime is also 9.30 right now, and I’m usually up with the kids by 6.30 am. I try to get both kids asleep by 8.30 so I get an hour of adult time before bed, to read or write or spend with my husband. Sometimes I find it annoying to have to spend so many hours in bed to piece together 7.5 hours of sleep, but I know it will only improve over time, and sleep has to be the priority right now. I agree using my one hour in the evening and time on the weekend for high quality leisure is the key to feeling good about the current life setup. And i remind myself it’s just a season. Sounds like you’ve got a good balance to me 🙂

  11. We try for 9:30 every night, but it only works occasionally. We have boys (ages 9-14) so all older, but my 14yr old has to be at school at 6am 4 days a week. So half the house is up by 5:30 and everyone else by 6:30. I know kids all have varying sleep needs, but I try really hard to make sure my teen can usually get 8 hours. I really don’t prefer early bedtimes though!

  12. I’m glad you enjoyed Holland Ridge Farms. It’s about a 20 minute drive from my house and I went on Sunday afternoon. Gorgeous and a fun afternoon out. The line for Cousins was too long for me; I’m going to look for their various locations this summer.

    1. @Cathy- it was a long line! But I thought worth it. And I say that as someone who hates lines (it helped that I only had one child with me, and an older one at that).

  13. I have an *ideal* bedtime of 10:30, but I regularly go to bed slightly earlier or later than that.

    About once a week my husband will have a particularly late-evening call (finishing between 9:30-10:15); if it has been intense, he can need time to unwind. I’ve learned the hard way that falling asleep before he comes to bed just doesn’t work well for me, as I’ll often wake up when he comes in and be groggy but can’t get back to sleep.
    On the weekends, we’re often both asleep by 9:30 PM! What adventurous lives one leads once one has children…

  14. This is going to sound awful but I go to bed at 8:30pm, so I can wake up at 4:15am and be at my 5am work out class (at Orange Theory Fitness). I had the revelation that with a toddler that wakes up at 6:30 am, a full time job 8-5ish, and a teen that needs my help at night, my only time to work out is between 5 and 6:30 am.
    It works really well for me and I feel much happier since I started doing it

  15. Wow, that’s some really early bedtimes. I sometimes can’t fall asleep that early despite being tired. I also find it hard to fall asleep when my partner is up late(r), somehow my brain can’t turn off but waits for someone to come in and “disturb” me. Once I’ve fallen asleep, I usually don’t wake up when he comes in, but my brain doesn’t seem to remember that and stays in an alert state, not going to sleep.

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