Sweet Z-z-z-z-z's: The World of Childhood Sleep
Why Fight It? Is Sleep That Important?Healthy child development requires sufficient slumber. So, when a young child fails to fall asleep at an appropriate hour, both parents and child suffer. While observational studies do not allow researchers to say for sure whether poor sleep quality is a cause or a result of depression and low self esteem, other sleep researchers have linked a lack of sleep in young children to a whole host of daytime woes. These include hyperactivity, behavior problems, learning difficulties, and that dreaded condition feared by all parents: the cranky child. Sleep disturbance and behavior disorders are likely associated in children, even if it is rarely possible to say with certainty which causes which.
Make Use of Transitional TimeIn the modern world, both parents work, so the whole household rises early. This makes a firm bedtime more important than ever. Unfortunately, many parents find that getting their young child to bed is the most difficult part of the day. To overcome this, create a routine associated with bedtime. Be as consistent as possible and start the routine at the same time every night. One useful technique recommended by experts is the effective use of transitional time, which falls between normal evening activities and bedtime. Quiet, low-key activities such as bedtime stories, prayers, singing, warm baths, cuddling, and quiet talk make for good transitional time. Many children have a favorite teddy bear or toy they associate with bedtime each night. Once you establish this routine, your child will make the connection between quiet time and bedtime. During the transition, avoid activities that stimulate your child. These include, wrestling, roughhousing, or exciting television shows.Make sure your child gets enough physical activity during the day. Aim for 60 minutes a day. Activity will reduce stress, and induce fatigue and relaxation. Your child may even look forward to going to sleep at night.
Do not Be a Sleep AssistantThe amount of sleep a child needs can vary depending on the child. So, it is up to parents to judge the exact amount of rest their children need. On average, kids aged 6-13 years old need about 9-11 hours of sleep a night. The earlier you establish a routine, the better. In fact, you can start bedtime routines during infancy.Try to avoid staying with your child until they fall asleep. It can lead to a habit that is hard to break because your child will expect it to continue. Further, it may inhibit their ability to fall asleep when they are alone. Instead, think of yourself as a helper to set the mood for a good night's sleep. The transition will be difficult, but there are ways to ease your child into a new routine. Remember to give it time and remain patient. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends waiting several minutes when your child calls out from their bed. The idea is to give your child a chance to fall asleep on their own in between call outs. If the next call comes, stop farther from the child's door every time you approach the room. If you can, avoid going into the room. If you have to go in, do not turn on any lights, or engage in conversations or play. Every time you are called, remind your child that it is time to go to sleep.
More from Beliefnet