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

LACK of sleep has long been an issue for stressed-out adults, but kids too are now suffering.

One mum who lets her son decide on his bedtime — even on a school night — debates with another who insists on lights out at 6pm.

Hayley Ambrose lets her son Leyland, 6, choose when he goes to bedCredit: Not known, clear with picture desk

Hayley says Leyland doesn’t want her attention in the evenings — he entertains himself either watching TV or playing in his room

Hayley says Leyland doesn’t want her attention in the evenings — he entertains himself either watching TV or playing in his roomCredit: Not known, clear with picture desk

HAYLEY AMBROSE lets Leyland, six, choose when he goes to bed — and sometimes leaves him asleep on the sofa all night. Hayley, 34, who is single and an admin assistant from Cambridge, says:

“When it comes to sleep, I have ripped up the parenting rule book.
I can’t face the daily battles of getting my son into bed by a set time so I let him decide.

It’s been that way since he was two years old and some nights he’s up with me until midnight — even on a school night.

On weekends, he often stays awake until 1am and there have also been times he has fallen asleep on the sofa so I’ve 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 nap because he’d look for his dummy when he was tired.

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

Friends suggested I should get him into bed for 8pm each night because the routine would help.

But as he got older and became more independent, he started resisting me. He’d constantly ask for a drink or run up and down the stairs like it was a game.

Some nights he’d lash out and scream at me that he wasn’t tired and I soon realised that no amount of sleep training or forced bedtimes was going to work.

I couldn’t face the hours of bedtime hell if I tried to get him in bed for 7pm. If I did try, we both felt exhausted the next day.

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

He knows when he’s gone to bed too late because he admits he’s exhausted and needs an early night.

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

He’s only allowed on his phone on the weekend and if he stays up on it too late, he sleeps up to 11am the next day to catch up.

He doesn’t want my attention in the evenings — he entertains himself either watching TV or playing in his room.

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

While some parents might ­criticise my lack of bedtimes, ­Leyland is achieving at school, plays lots of sport and doesn’t use devices during the week.

As for those parents who say they can get their child to bed at 6pm and they sleep for 12 hours, good for them. They’re raising kids who can’t think for themselves.

When it comes to sleep, I’m doing everything right by my son.”

  • As told to Alley Einstein
Shelli Watson, says her daughter Soraya, four, has a strict 6pm bedtime every night

Shelli Watson, says her daughter Soraya, four, has a strict 6pm bedtime every nightCredit: Not known, clear with picture desk

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

“Kids need ­structure and routine so why would any mum not want their kids in bed at a reasonable time? They must be crazy.

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

She gets home from school, we eat an hour later before bathtime at 5pm. Then it’s a book before bed which is always 6pm on the dot.

Sometimes, she’ll even ask to go to bed 15 minutes earlier because she’s tired.

I’m not an ogre — if Soraya had a party invitation on a weekend I wouldn’t say no, but I know I’ll have her crankiness to deal with the next day so I try as much as I can to stick to her schedule.

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

My mum worked 12-hour shifts and helped out when she could but I did the bulk of ­caring for him on my own.

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

Kids need ­structure and routine so why would any mum not want their kids in bed at a reasonable time? They must be crazy. Bedtimes are non-negotiable — my daughter Soraya is in bed at 6pm and unless she’s had a bad dream, she doesn’t wake up until around 7am.

Shelli Watson

I would have still been ­putting him to bed at that time in his teens had I been able to get away with it.

I met Dave when I was 30 and he knew I was a stickler for bedtime ­routines as soon as Soraya was born.

Every now and again he’ll say, ‘Shall we try putting her to bed a bit later now she’s older?’, so we get more time with her in the evenings, but I’ll only ever budge by half an hour.

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

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

We’ve got a family birthday party coming up which starts half an hour after Soraya’s ­bedtime, so although we will go, we’ll only stay for an hour because we need to get back to put Soraya to bed.

Otherwise, she’ll get overtired if we keep her up — it just isn’t worth it.

‘She isn’t missing out’

How can anyone enjoy a film or eat an evening meal in peace when they’ve got one eye on a child? Also, the only time I’ll let Soraya get in bed with me and Dave during the night is when she is unwell.

Soraya isn’t missing out on time with us — weekends are always family time and I wouldn’t dream of going out boozing all day like some do.

I’ve known 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 sets kids up for life.

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I’ve argued with my mum over Soraya’s bedtimes. When she has her 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 that Soraya video-calls me to say goodnight when she’s in bed — just so I know that she is following my7 rules.

Factoring age is kip key

KATHERINE HALL, a psychologist in sleep from Somnus Therapy, says:

“Studies show that putting kids to bed too early only makes them become more hyper and distracted in most cases.

“But, on the other hand, if children go to bed much later than they should, they tend to be grumpy and struggle the following day.

“For every age, there is an optimal amount of sleep and a set bedtime that should leave your kids nicely rested and energised for the next day.

“If you need your child up for 7am, these are the optimal bedtimes according to age – three-six year old’s need between 11 and 13 hours of sleep, so ideally they should be put to bed around 7pm in the evening.

“For a six year old that needs between nine and 11 hours sleep, bedtime should be 8pm and for a seven year old it’s 8.15pm.

“An eight year should be in bed for 8.30pm and for a nine-year-old that needs over 9 hours sleep, the optimal bedtime should 8.45pm.

“For a 10-year-old that needs over nine hours sleep, bedtime should be 9pm.

“Teenagers need on average between eight and ten hours a night, so their ideal bedtime should be around 10pm.”

Katherine Hall has teamed up with Yorkshire-based bed retailer, Happy Beds.

This week Fab Daily is delving into all things sleep-related

This week Fab Daily is delving into all things sleep-related

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