“OK, kids. You have school tomorrow. Time for bed!”

“But Mom! It’s not even dark yet!”

Some form of this conversation plays out all over the United States as kids head back to school in the late summer and early fall. And who can blame the kids, right?

You’re supposed to sleep at night and be awake during the day. Everyone knows that!

While that’s generally true, there are exceptions. Take the siesta, for example.

Many cultures around the world enjoy taking a nap in the early afternoon. Just ask any adult. We’re sure they’d love to have a nap during the day!

So why do parents send their children to bed when it isn’t completely dark outside yet? Are they being mean? Not at all! They’re just looking out for their children’s best interests.

Parents know that children need a lot of sleep to be the best they can be during the school day. How much sleep do children need?

For infants, a good sleep should be a whopping 14 to 15 hours. Toddlers need 12 to 14 hours, while school-age children need 10 to 11 hours per night, on average.

If you have to go to bed before dark, it’s probably because your parents have calculated what time you have to get up in the morning to get to school on time, and they then set a bedtime 10 or more hours before that.

In many parts of the United States, your bedtime may be at a time when the sun hasn’t fully set yet. This is especially true in the late summer and early fall.

The amount of daylight your area of the world gets each day depends on its latitude. Latitude is a measure of how far north or south you live from the equator.

Because of the tilt of the Earth, the northern hemisphere, including the United States, receives the most daylight each year on or around June 21, a day known as the “summer solstice.”

After the summer solstice, there is a little less daylight every day until the winter solstice. The winter solstice usually occurs on or around December 20 or 21, and it has the least amount of daylight of any day the entire year.

So, in the late summer and early fall, your parents may set a bedtime that means you’re heading to bed while the sun is still shining. As days go by, though, the amount of daylight will decrease each day, and soon enough you’ll be hitting the hay when it’s fully dark outside.

You may not like going to bed while the sun is still out, but it could be worse. Around the time of the summer solstice, the North Pole receives 24 hours of daylight. Imagine how hard it must be for Santa and his elves to sleep when it doesn’t get dark at all!


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    • Thanks for sharing what times you go to sleep during the weekdays and on the weekends, Hannah! We’re sure there are LOTS of other Wonder Friends who head off to Dreamland pretty early on school nights, too. Everyone needs the right amount of sleep to prepare them for learning, sharing and WONDERing every day! :-)

  1. Hi Wonderopolis!
    Apparently, I only go to bed at 10:00 PM on school nights and almost 2:00 AM on weekends. Crazy, right?

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Have you ever wondered…

  • Why do you have to go to bed before dark?
  • How do parents decide what time bedtime is?
  • What day has the most daylight each year in the northern hemisphere?

Wonder Gallery

Try It Out

We know it can be hard to get in the mood for bedtime when the sun hasn’t gone down yet. As you’ve learned, though, getting your rest is very important… especially on school nights!

Here are some tips for getting a better night’s sleep each and every night:

  • Make sure you’re comfortable. Experts recommend a cool, dark and quiet room. Use blinds or a window shade to block out those last few rays of sunshine. Turn off radios and televisions. Adjust the temperature until you’re comfortable.
  • Drink less in the evenings. As it gets closer and closer to bedtime, avoid drinks with caffeine, such as sodas. Caffeine can keep you up way too late!
  • Start winding down before bedtime. Start a bedtime ritual that helps you unwind and relax prior to bedtime. Maybe a warm bath, followed by brushing your teeth and finally a bedtime story or two will help you drift off to dreamland quickly at bedtime.
  • Stick to a schedule. Decide on a schedule for when you go to bed and when you get up. The closer you stick to your schedule, the easier it will be to get the rest your body needs.
  • If you have trouble getting to sleep, read a few pages of a favorite book. Reading can help relax your mind and put you in the mood for bedtime. If reading doesn’t work, you can always count sheep. Just make sure they’re imaginary sheep. Counting real sheep would be way too much fun and could keep you up for hours!


Still Wondering

Check out Science NetLinks’ The Warmth of the Sun lesson to learn more about the sun and what role it plays in warming the land, air and water around us.


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