What do you suggest is a proper bedtime for preteens and teenagers?


Thank you for a great site. I have one question. I have three children: two girls (ages 15 and 9) and a boy (age 12). One of my daughters asked permission to sleepover at one of her girlfriend's home. I contacted the girlfriend's mother and informed her about my daughter's bedtime. She was very surprised and told me that her child stays up much later than my children do. We then had a little discussion about this. What time do you suggest the proper bedtime should be?


Children need adequate sleep to function well and to grow properly. But the number of hours a particular child needs will vary with each child. The average school-age child needs nine hours of sleep, but that is only an average. Some children function well with less and others require more. Once a child reaches puberty, his body will demand about an hour more sleep per night as his body goes through the changes into adulthood.

How much time does your child need? Pick a week or two where there is no particular demand on your time, such as during a vacation. Get the kids to bed at a regular time, but let them wake up on their own. Don't count the first few days as they adjust to the new schedule, but after a few days, take note of how long they sleep. This will give you a rough idea of how much time your particular children need each night.

Having a fixed bedtime helps a child sleep better. The body has a natural cycle and it will adjust to the demands of the environment. If a child is used to going to bed at 9 p.m. each night, then as 9 p.m. approaches, his body will start the process needed to fall asleep. The major difficulty is that the cycle usually becomes skewed during adolescents. Teenagers have trouble falling asleep at their usual bedtime. The answer is that they should still head off to bed at their usual time, but take something quiet to do until they do fall asleep.

What time is the best bedtime? It all depends on what works best in your household. For example, in my home since Bible studies tend to occur in the evenings and we now have a house full of teenagers, things usually don't start winding down until 11 p.m. Since we home school, we just let the kids (and us) sleep a bit later, so the house isn't going again until 8 or 9 a.m. Yet I remember when the children were young and would wake up at dawn. In those days we were in bed before 9 p.m. so that we all could get enough sleep.

Whatever works best in your home is what you should use. It doesn't matter if someone else has a different schedule. But what is important is that you keep it regular. You don't want wild swings of early to bed one day and late to bed the next. Everyone is going to end up sleep-deprived and grouchy.

Having said all of this, it is not reasonable to ask another family to change their schedule to match your household. If your daughter is visiting a friend, she should strive to follow the rules of that household while she is there. If she stays up later than she normally does, oh well, she'll be a bit weary the next day and can sleep a bit later another day to catch back up; but that is part of the "fun" of staying at someone else's home.

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