I keep being asked questions about sleep! Parents want a lot more sleep and our children do not!
Why is it so hard to get children to sleep....?
Some of our own children had trouble sleeping but I think what helped me was routine, routine routine!
But before we start discussing sleep we need to think about what kind of day your child is having?
Children who still have naps: Are their naps too long? Are they having a nap near bedtime? Many parents try and cut out naps but their child becomes overtired and bedtime becomes a real chore. According to Healthy Children. org ( American Academy of Pediatrics) children age 1-2 need 11-14 hours sleep including naps on a regular basis for optimal development. Children age 3-5 years need 10-13 hours including naps.
Also, all kids need a balanced diet for healthy development. It seems so easy to give our kids junk food when we are busy and tired but if possible buy healthy snacks for them. With 4 children, there were many times we could not sit down for dinner together as I had to drive to various activities with them. In the car, I used to hand out peanut butter sandwiches, fruit, cheese and crackers. Of course, the kids made a mess of the car but wipes helped to reduce the debris. I avoided giving my children sugary drinks as they caused my children to be hyperactive.
I am a great believer in fresh air and exercise which can tire children and help with their sleep routine. Encourage your child to play outside. They can invent their own games or join with friends which can help them unwind and allows them to use their imagination. Team sports have many benefits and some kids thrive being in a competitive environment but over-scheduling with activities can add stress to a child.
Another problem I had with my children was trying to restrict TV and electronic games. It is hard!! I set timers, gave warnings and handed out consequences but it was a battle. If possible, I would recommend reducing electronics an hour or so before bed so your child can calm his mind. Allow quieter games such as puzzles, books, drawing etc. The American Academy of Pediatrics do not recommend your child having a TV in their bedroom.
Is your child's bedroom conducive for sleep? Does the room need to be darker ( especially in the summer with lighter evenings). Does your child like their bedroom? Their bedroom should be a place of rest, peace and enjoyment. Can they choose their comforter/ sheets? Do they have favorite pyjamas? Have they a choice of books or can they listen to music? Most children want a favorite cuddly toy/ lovey to take to bed.
Some parents use sleep machines, white noise or introduce their children to meditation to help them sleep. There are many sleep aids to buy and more children are using weighted blankets to help with their anxiety at bedtime.
BACK TO ROUTINES
I always gave my children a bath/ shower, stories and then bedtime. I did not spend ages saying goodnight to every toy in the room- it will take ages!! Nor did I get them drinks of water ( sometimes I did, but not often). I was kind but firm ( because I was exhausted and wanted some 'me time'). My husband and I always kissed them goodnight and tell your children you love them. You want to enjoy bedtime with your child. It is very special and creates a wonderful bond between you.
A final note is that some kids go through a stage of being scared. This is very normal. They believe in ghosts and monsters. Try to reassure them by saying you are near. If it helps, check under the bed or closet. Try not to get pulled in by looking everywhere or you will be there all night. Dim lighting can help and there are all kinds of night lights and glow stars. Lastly, an 'anti monster spray'- water sprayed from a bottle can eliminate any frightening things.