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Big Kids

23rd Jan 2023

Is it time to get rid of children’s bedtimes?



Do you think it’s time to get rid of bedtimes?

Bedtime routines and the battle to get the kids into bed early is a major deal to most parents here in Ireland 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 to.

This is not the case everywhere, though.

In Italy, parents are far more chilled out about bedtimes.

“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 .”

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 the 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.”

Italian parents aren’t as worried about this, clearly, and as a result, their kids 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 said: “We found that Italian adolescents reported much better sleep hygiene and substantially better sleep quality than American adolescents.”

What do you think? Would you scrap bedtimes completely or do they add a bit of order to your children’s routine?