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I let my six-year-old stay up until 1am and sleep on the sofa – it makes me a better parent

Lack of sleep has long been an issue for stressed adults, but now children suffer from it too.

A mother who lets her son decide his bedtime – even on a school night – argues with another who insists the lights go out at 6pm.

“Leyland learns from its own mistakes, others raise children who can’t think for themselves”

Hayley Ambrose lets her son Leyland, 6, choose when he goes to bed

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Hayley Ambrose lets her son Leyland, 6, choose when he goes to bedCredit: Unknown, clear with picture desk
Hayley says Leyland doesn't want her attention at night - he enjoys watching TV or playing games in his room

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Hayley says Leyland doesn’t want her attention at night – he enjoys watching TV or playing games in his roomCredit: Unknown, clear with picture desk

HAYLEY AMBROSE lets Leyland, six, choose when he goes to bed – sometimes letting him sleep on the sofa all night. Hayley, 34, single and an administrative assistant from Cambridge says:

“When it comes to sleeping, I tore up the parenting rule book.
I can’t face the daily struggles of getting my son to bed by a set time, so I let him decide.

It’s been like this since he was two years old, and some nights he’s up with me until midnight – even on a school night.

On the weekends he often stays up until 1am and has sometimes fallen asleep on the sofa, so I left him there until the next morning.

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When Leyland was a baby I let him sleep when he wanted and I knew when he was ready to take a nap because he would look for his pacifier when he was tired.

I went back to work when he was eight months old and he started kindergarten – but the staff there struggled to get him to nap. When he took a nap, he was up later that night.

Friends suggested I put him to bed by 8pm every night because the routine would help.

But as he got older and more independent, he started to resist me. He kept asking for a drink or running up and down the stairs like it was a game.

Some nights he would lash out and yell at me that he wasn’t tired, and I soon realized that no sleep training or enforced bedtimes would work.

I couldn’t stand the bedtime hours trying to get him to bed at 7pm. If I tried, we would both feel exhausted the next day.

That’s when I made my own sleep rules—to the dismay of my friends, who said kids need a routine. Letting Leyland decide when he’s ready to sleep is part of growing up and being able to understand your own body.

He knows when he has gone to bed late because he admits that he is exhausted and needs to go to bed early.

I’m not a bad parent – it’s about Leyland learning from his own mistakes.

He’s only allowed to use the phone on weekends, and if he’s late he sleeps in until 11am the next day to catch up.

In the evenings he doesn’t want my attention – he’s either enjoying himself watching TV or playing games in his room.

If I go out during the week, I have a babysitter who knows Leyland can stay up until he’s tired.

While some parents might object to my lack of bedtime, Leyland does well at school, exercises extensively, and doesn’t use machines during the weekdays.

As for the parents who say they can put their kid to bed at 6pm and sleep 12 hours, good for them. They raise children who cannot think for themselves.

When it comes to sleeping, I do everything right for my son.”

  • As said to Alley Einstein

“Bed times are non-negotiable – if she’s late, she’s cranky the next day”

Shelli Watson, says her daughter Soraya, four, has a strict 6pm bedtime every night

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Shelli Watson, says her daughter Soraya, four, has a strict 6pm bedtime every nightCredit: Unknown, clear with picture desk

SHELLI WATSON, 42, lives in Wakefield, West Yorks, with husband Dave, 51, a civil engineer, and daughter Soraya, four, whose bedtime is strictly 6pm every night. Shelli, who is also a mother to Jake, 23, says:

“Kids need structure and routine, so why wouldn’t a mother want her kids to be in bed at a reasonable time? You must be crazy.

Bedtimes are non-negotiable – my daughter Soraya is in bed by 6pm and unless she had a bad dream she doesn’t wake up until around 7am.

She comes home from school, we eat an hour later before bath time at 5pm. Then it’s a book before bed, which is always at 6 p.m. sharp.

Sometimes she even asks to go to bed 15 minutes earlier because she is tired.

I’m not an ogre – if Soraya was invited to a party over the weekend I wouldn’t say no, but I know I’ll have to deal with her moodiness the next day, so I try to reach out to her as best I can keep schedule.

I was 19 when I had my son Jake and was living with my parents at the time.

My mother worked 12-hour shifts and helped where she could, but I did most of the care myself.

For my sanity I needed him in bed by 7pm so I could have the evenings to myself to either wash my hair or catch up on sleep.

I would have put him to bed when I was a teenager if I could have gotten away with it.

I met Dave when I was 30 and he knew I was an advocate of bedtime routines as soon as Soraya was born.

Every once in a while he says, “Should we try putting her to bed a little later now that she’s older?” so we can have more time with her in the evenings, but I only budge for half an hour at a time.

I tried it six weeks ago and she was sloppy the day after because she needs her sleep.

Some people think putting kids to bed later means they’ll sleep later, but that’s not true either.

We have a family birthday party that starts half an hour after Soraya’s bedtime, so we’ll leave but only stay an hour because we have to go back to put Soraya to bed.

Otherwise she’ll get overtired if we keep going – it’s just not worth it.

“You don’t miss anything”

How can you calmly enjoy a movie or have dinner with a child in your eye? Also, the only time I let Soraya into bed with me and Dave at night is when she’s not feeling well.

Soraya doesn’t waste time with us – weekends are always family time and I wouldn’t dream of drinking all day like some do.

I know people who let their kids stay up until they want to go to bed—their kids are like walking zombies the next day—and instilling good sleep habits in childhood prepares kids for life.

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I was arguing with my mother about Soraya’s bedtimes. If she has them for the night, I’ll ask her to follow my routine, but she’ll want to keep her up later so they can spend more time together.

Bedtimes are non-negotiable, so I ask Soraya to video call me to say goodnight when she’s in bed – just so I know she’s following my 7 rules.

Factoring age is tipping key

KATHERINE HALL, sleep psychologist at Somnus Therapy, says:

“Studies show that, in most cases, if children go to bed early, they just become more hyperactive and distracted.

“But on the other hand, if kids go to bed much later than they should, they tend to be grumpy and fight the next day.

“Every age has an optimal amount of sleep and a set bedtime that should leave your children well rested and energized for the next day.

“If you need your child to get up at 7am, these are the optimal bedtimes depending on their age – three to six year olds need between 11 and 13 hours of sleep, so ideally they should be put to bed around 7pm at night.

“For a six-year-old who needs between nine and 11 hours of sleep, bedtime should be 8 p.m., and for a seven-year-old it’s 8:15 p.m.

“An eight-year-old should be in bed by 8:30 p.m., and for a nine-year-old who needs more than 9 hours of sleep, the optimal bedtime should be 8:45 p.m.

“For a 10-year-old who needs more than nine hours of sleep, bedtime should be 9 p.m.

“Teens need between eight and 10 hours a night on average, so their ideal bedtime should be around 10 p.m..”

https://www.thesun.co.uk/fabulous/17947787/kids-sleep-bedtime-parent-debate/ I let my six-year-old stay up until 1am and sleep on the sofa – it makes me a better parent

Dais Johnston

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