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04th Aug 0020

Italian children don’t have bedtimes and it could actually be a good thing

How strict are YOU on bedtimes?

Trine Jensen-Burke

To most of us parents, nothing beat that feeling at bedtime when the kids finally go down for the night and you can actually have a moment to yourself before it’s your own (self-imposed) bedtime.

Bedtime routines and the battle to get the kids into bed early is a major deal to most parents here in Ireland (and many other places too), and we are somewhat conditioned into thinking it a failure if things don’t go to plan or if the kids go to bed later than we’d like them too.

This is not the case everywhere, though.

Nope, in Italy, parents are far more chilled out about the whole bedtime debacle, something you might have noticed have you ever visited.


“Walk into any restaurant in Rome, from the ordinary to the elegant, at 10 p.m. and you will find children eating and talking at the table with adults,” writes Jeannie Marshall, a Toronto native raising her son in Rome. “Around 11, some of them will be face down in their spaghetti or sprawled over their parents’ laps, sleeping while the adults linger over a bitter digestivo.”

It seems this isn’t just a few random “I-like-to-keep-up-my-social-life-despite-now-having-kids” type parents, but everybody.

“Since Italian families tend to eat late, kids end up going to bed even later,” Molly Gage, an American mum also raising kids in Rome, explains to parenting blog Cup of Jo. “This year, [my daughter] Sabina went to a birthday party that ended at midnight, which is late even for me! My kids go to bed around 8:30, but sometimes that interferes with playdates—I once picked Sabina up from a playdate at 6:30 p.m. (on a school night) and the mother was shocked and confused—they eat at 8 or so and the kids go to bed around 10 p.m. Most of the moms in her class know by now my kids are on the quirky American evening system, fortunately.”

To us, this seems like madness, and I know I would feel a little worried about my kids not getting enough sleep – and also, I don’t know about your kids, but mine are absolutely horrific when they haven’t slept enough.

Italian parents aren’t as worried about this, clearly, and as a result, their little bambinos are not getting the recommended nine to 11 hours of sleep we are told is the Holy Grail of rest for kids here on our shores.

According to this study, Italian kids sleep fewer hours than American (and Swiss, French, Finnish and Canadian) kids between infancy and age six – they do, however, head home for lunch and a siesta in the middle of their school days.

However, there’s a trade-off. The researchers of the study write: “We found that Italian adolescents reported much better sleep hygiene and substantially better sleep quality than American adolescents.”

As well as this, I would imagine that in a world where very few have time to sit down for family dinners because we all work later and the little bit of ‘everyone’s at home now’ time in the afternoons is usually taken up by homework, Italian parents might feel like the later bedtime gives them more time to chat and be with their kids, no? I know when the school holidays are on and we let the normal bedtime regime slip a little, I love our movie nights and playtime a lot. But would it work in the long-run? I’m not sure.