For children sleeping early is essential for growth (due to the elimination of the growth hormone, GH occurs in precisely this first sleep cycle at night) and for their healthy development. Sleeping the number of hours necessary for each age is what keeps the human being physically and emotionally healthy (considering that the first and second part of the night perform different functions for our body and losing any of them can lead to various problems for our health and quality of life).
The ideal time to sleep at night
The appropriate time for babies and children up to 5 years of age to sleep is from 19:00 to 20:00 at the most and after 6 to 13 years of age (reducing the time of night sleep by 1 or 2 hours) from 20:00 to 21:30 (considering school hours, but in some cases even earlier).
Children’s sleep will approach adult sleep between 3 and 5 years of age, moving to single-phase, concentrated sleep during the night, without napping during the day. However, the same pattern is only achieved when the adult is 20 years old (when we spend 20% of our time sleeping in REM sleep – restless, sleepy sleep – and 80% in NREM sleep – deep sleep). Before that age, we work on the issues surrounding the sleep of babies, children, and adolescents in different ways than adults (so never rely on your experiences to assess and work on your son/daughter’s sleep).
Observations (about children sleeping in the dark)
The naps of the day need to take place according to the age of the child and biological rhythm. The time between each one also, that is, a child that is already 5 hours awake (which happens after 1 and a half years) needs to wake up from his nap at the latest by 14:00 to sleep at 19:00. Then, sleep day and night need to be in sync to occur correctly.
If your child does not want to sleep at this time something is not suitable or not working in your routine. All children are able, feel better, sleep more deeply and sleep longer at the correct time (but there are several details and explanations on this that will remain for another post).
A great myth is that babies who suckle at the breast sleep worse. The detail is that many babies develop habits during breastfeeding which disturb their sleep. Breast milk actually helps babies sleep, as at night the highest concentration of Melatonin in breast milk occurs. In other words, babies are in sync with their mother and sleep more deeply and better during the night.
If this does not happen or happened to you it is not your milk’s fault (remembering that each case is a case) but the habits that your baby has developed (or rather, that you have somehow taught him). Breast milk helps to regularise sleep in the first few months, such as “sunbathing” and various good habits that we teach babies from birth. Everything is a construction of knowledge!