Our daughter (O.) is 6 years old. She has always (read: since she was born) been someone to rather get up late and stay up late (in contrast to her little sister (Y.), who is much more of an early bird).
Over the years, O.'s sleeping time has been gradually shifting further toward the end of the day, and we seem to be unable to influence it. While we could once get her to bed and asleep by 10 pm. long ago, this has gradually become later and later, so during the past 8 or so months, her sleeping time has become midnight. During our recent vacations (where, admittedly, there has also been a lot less pressure to get up at any particular time the next day), this has shifted further up to 1:30 am.
Note that the rest of our daily routine hasn't really changed: We start preparing both children for bed around 8 pm. (this can fluctuate a bit depending on what we did during the day, when we could have dinner, etc., so it might be 7:30 on some days and 8:30 on others). Y. is asleep at latest by 10 pm., typically already by 9:30 pm., at which time O. completes her preparation for bed.
Then, one or more of the following happens:
- We bring O. to her room/bed, and wish her a good night, sometimes still reading something to her. After we've left, she'll get up again and come downstairs. This can repeat any number of times; my wife and I are often taking turns with this.
- After O. has gotten up again, we accept her request to stay downstairs (which is usually more an ultimatum of the form "Either you stay in my room with me, or I'll come downstairs again, anyway. So, let me stay in the living room."). While we try not to give her much attention then, other than asking her to go to bed every few minutes (to clearly convey that at that time of the day, we're not offering any "interesting" activities), she'll happily sit down in the living room, drawing pictures or doing other creative hobbies, and can, without any issues, do so until past 1 am. without showing any signs of getting tired.
- We bring O. to her bed and stay there in the darkness. Mostly, she falls asleep after roughly 2 hours. (But usually, us, as well ...) In any case, by the time we can leave her room, it's past midnight and we feel well ready to sleep ourselves.
In other words, at least one of us is spending their entire evening on trying to get the children to sleep. (This is especially the case when one of us stays with her, which is why we discontinued doing this every day after trying it for many months. We simply couldn't find any benefit anymore in one of us standing around in a dark room for hours, or falling asleep on the floor, every evening - and our daughter not sleeping any earlier than when she comes downstairs, either.)
Now, I know that children require a lot of attention and I'm happy to spend much time with mine. I'm just getting worried the mode in which this happens for us each evening is starting to have problematic side-effects, e.g.:
- I've started missing out on certain deadlines (such as for paying bills, or making time-limited orders), as I haven't had the 30-minutes window required to properly do such things at any evening during e.g. 14 days on some occasions.
- It takes months to get presumably straightforward household maintenance tasks done, as neither of us can spare a few hours in the evening browsing for the appropriate products (think furniture with the right measurements, etc.).
- I'm feeling disconnected from my wife. There are virtually no opportunities anymore where just the two of us can talk even just for a few minutes. At least one of the children is constantly around, trying to redirect the conversation topic to something that's more interesting to them, or entirely disrupt the conversation to have mommy/daddy to themselves.
- We're missing out on possibly important info events, as happened e.g. by child nursery. Some of those were scheduled to start at 9 pm., which seemed to suit most (indeed not all) other families, as their children (of the same ages as ours) were in bed by then. Not so for us, where O. would try to hijack our attention every time such an event took place.
Coupled to that, making O. get up somewhat earlier in the morning can be hard. While child nursery was on, we used to start waking up the kids around 7 am., still O. was rarely in child nursery before 9. We may be able to wake her up, but she'll usually simply lie around and refuse to do anything (easily for an hour) before slowly getting out of bed at some point (and complaining that we have brought Y. to child nursery already).
Now, O. is about to start elementary school. Some other parents tell me her sleeping times will automatically adjust in the very first weeks of school, once she is required to be awake and focused in the morning, but personally, I'm very worried we'll be having problems even getting her dressed in time for school.
I'm aware it's now pretty late to change things for school (roughly two weeks to go), but I didn't have any time to write and post this earlier - see above. Is there anything we can do to gradually shift her day-night-rhythm to an earlier time of the day, other than trust in automatically adapting to the school timetable somehow? Or is trying to shift her sleeping time an X-Y-problem in the first place?
I have found some similar questions, most importantly this one and that one. However, the answers seem to be dealing with (from our perspective) relatively "benign" cases (going to bed at 9 pm., or at least sleeping at 11 pm.). Also, in contrast to those questions, my focus is that O.'s daily rhythm seems to disrupt our, let's call it, "household organisation" as a whole, so I'm both open to answers that say "your daughter's sleep rhythm is the issue, try to change it like this" and to answers that say "your daughter's sleep rhythm is not the issue, try changing this and that peripheral aspect of our parenting-household instead".