How Parents Treat Bedtime For Kids Around The World

Yawns heard around the world.

by Jon Moskowitz
Originally Published: 
Kids sleeping in their strollers during bedtime

If you believe that your kids are terrible at this bettime thing, take comfort in the fact it’s not just you. Around the world parents struggle with getting their children to go the eff to sleep. And if in America it takes 3 books, tell 2 stories, and multiple check-ins, in other countries the issues are different, but just as annoying. That’s because a kid’s sleep pattern is formed by any number of factors, including the climate, economic factors, national culture, and boogeymen per capita. Here’s how 7 countries around the world are putting their sons and daughters down for the night.

France: Bedtime Is When The Kids Start Bothering You

You probably think French parents regard sleep with the same Gallic indifference they apply to smoking and mistresses. Hey, one country’s perception of “indifference,” is another’s definition of “chill.” Yes, les enfants have to be up early (the typical school day starts at 8 AM), but bedtime seems to be more fluid. Kids in France are usually allowed to stay up as late as their parents — as long as their play doesn’t disturb their adult nighttime activities — like smoking and mistresses.

Russia: No Longer A State-Sponsored Schedule

Back in the Soviet era, your daily schedule was based around recommendations from the State. Bread lines suck, but it wasn’t as despotic as you might think. Everyone would wake up by 9:00 AM, eat dinner by 7:30 PM, and be in bed by 9 or 10:00 PM (Pol Pot never let his people sleep in). Now, ever since Mickey Ds popped up in Red Square, things have been a little more loosey-goosey. Modern Russian kids regularly stay up past 11:00 PM, but are still expected to be up and at school by 8 AM. Fortunately, the younger ones get a 2-hour power nap as part of detskii sad (Russian kindergarten). That should make their folks detskii glad.

South Korea: School Takes Precedent Over Sleep

The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development recently named South Korea the most sleep deprived developed nation, getting just 7.8 hours of shuteye. Insomnia starts early for them, with a school day that begins around 7:30 AM and goes straight through to 4:00 PM. It’s also not unusual for South Korean teens to go from school to after school tutoring that lasts until late in the evening. If you think that’s rough, they also don’t go to sleep until 1 or 2:00 AM, but are still expected to get to class. Even the government started encouraging its employees to take hour-long naps during the day, just like at an American DMV.

Flickr / 16 Nine

Australia: The Best Sleepers In The Eastern Hemisphere

Australian isn’t all beer flowing and men chundering. In this land down under, adults have the earliest average bedtime in the world. And Aussie kids benefit: they get an average of 9-and-a-half hours of sleep a night. That’s better than most kids in Western Europe. One thing that will sound familiar: Researchers noticed that as kids get older they start waking up later, especially on non-school days. What? Teenagers sleeping in on the weekend? Things sure are weird below the Equator.

Nepal: Early To Bed, Early To Rise

Nepal has one foot in the modern age and the other in the feudal, and it’s reflected in how their children are raised. For example, in the hill villages of Nepal, it’s all about communal sleep in the same room. Kids go to bed a few hours after the sun goes down, (usually around 8:00 PM). The Nepali public school day starts at 10:00 AM (whoo!), but this doesn’t mean that kids get to sleep in (boo!). In poorer families, kids have to get up as early as 4:00 AM to work around the house or in the fields (or even at the local granite quarry). Then, after school ends at 3:00 PM, they go home and work some more. Not being sleepy isn’t an issue.

Flickr / Chris Gold

Egypt: Short Nights In Big Beds

Egyptians still hold onto sleep patterns established thousands of years ago. This polyphasic sleeping mean shorter periods of rest at night (about 6 hours) and a long nap in the afternoon (another 2). A 2007 study from Emory University showed that Egyptians sleep in family groups, especially when they are young, and regularly take a sort of Middle Eastern siesta called “ta’assila.” Everyone also keeps the windows open overnight — even in a city as noisy and crowded as Cairo. Schools start between 7:30 and 8:00 AM, but that’s not an issue, because blaring traffic and screaming gently rouse everyone awake.

Cuba: Nothing To Do At Night But Rest

Castro’s comprehensive education program for children might be free, but it’s also mandatory. So even though they live in a tropical paradise, Cuba’s children work hard. School starts at 7:00 AM and goes until 4:30 PM. Everybody gets a 2-hour break from 12:00 PM to 2:00 PM to take shelter from the Caribbean heat. Then after school, kids play sports or study music and literature before going home, eating dinner, doing homework, and going to bed. Cubans also have very limited Internet access —terrible for a free press and access to information, but great for not fighting with the kids about bedtime.

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