Sleep is so important in children's health and development. Sleep deprivation can result in so many problems which include physical and behavioral issues. The following website states the importance of sleep in children and what the lack of it can cause. https://www.mayoclinichealthsystem.org/hometown-health/speaking-of-health/sleep-an-essential-element-of-success-for-children#:~:text=Sleep%20deprivation%20can%20lead%20to,hyperactivity%2C%20aggression%20or%20disruptive%20behavior.
The National Sleep Institute recommends these hours of sleep:
12–17 for newborns and infants (this includes naps)
11–14 for ages 1–2 (this includes naps)
10–13 for ages 3–5 (this includes naps)
9–11 for ages 6–13
8–10 for ages 14–17
7–9 for adults
As many of you know I am a mother of two children who are two years apart (Ben is now 18 and Bella is now 16) and I have dealt with my share of bedtime issues. When I had my daughter my son was two and we decided that it would be better to divide and conquer bedtime. My husband dealt with Ben and I dealt with Bella, this was mostly because I was breastfeeding. During this time we were both exhausted and overworked. My husband frequently slept with my son when he woke up because it was easier and we paid for that for many years. This helped us learn what not to do for Bella and overall she was a much easier child to put to bed. Then my husband took a job where he traveled every other week the children were still little and I was trying to start up Creative Minds Preschool, which meant that I worked lots of crazy hours and we were living in the Monkey Junction area of Wilmington. It used to take us 45 min to get home every night. To say bedtime was a chore would be an understatement. Over the years I have learned different tricks that helped make this easier on all of us. Here are some of the things that I learned.
1. Consistency - The most important thing with children no matter what you are trying to do is consistency. Children do so much better when things are consistent and they know what to expect. When things frequently change it makes it hard for them to understand what is going on and what is expected of them. This also means that they should go to bed and wake up at the same time every day.
2. Bedtime Routine - Figure out what works best for you with bedtime and do the same exact thing every single night. Some examples of bedtime routines could be; bathtime, brushing their teeth, story, tucking them in, and giving them a hug and kiss goodnight. Another one could be brushing their teeth, rocking while reading a story, and then tucking them in and giving them a hug and kiss goodnight. Another bedtime routine; brushing their teeth, reading a bedtime story, rubbing their back for a designated time (set a timer), and then a hug and kiss goodnight. So whatever you decide your bedtime routine is make sure you do it EVERY night. Also, do not linger too long in the room because this just makes it harder for them when you try to leave, set a length of time and stick to it. Maybe set a timer with a soft song that goes off when it is time to leave.
3. Set a bedtime - It is extremely important for you the parent to set the bedtime and stick to it every night. I know it seems hard to start but I promise after a while they will come to expect it and stop fighting you on it. This means you should have the same bedtime every night including weekends. I know it is tempting to let them stay up later on the weekends but this will definitely make things harder for both of you.
4. Limit screen time - An hour before bedtime have them turn off all tablets, TVs, phones, or whatever else you may have that they use for screen time. The blue light that these devices let off actually suppresses melatonin which is the hormone that helps with sleep.
5. Their own bed - I know lots of people like to cosleep nowadays but let's be real who actually gets a good night's sleep like that? Maybe it works for you guys but I know when my son used to sneak in our bed at night those were some of the worst nights of sleep any of us had including him. This did not allow any of us to actually get in REM sleep and I always woke up the next day not being able to walk. Putting them in their own bed teaches them how to fall asleep independently which is a really important life skill.
6. Positive Routine - Make sure that this is a positive experience so the children do not associate it with something bad. Try not to yell at them when getting them to go to bed.
7. No caffeine - Do not allow them any caffeine at least 3 hours before bedtime. Caffeine is a stimulant and will definitely cause the opposite reaction to what you are wanting.
8. Bedroom - Keep the bedroom dark with only a nightlight if needed. Some children sleep better with a sound machine. A cool room also tends to help children sleep better.
This is all good and well but we all know that this is not going to be easy when you first start this I promise if you stick to it and you are consistent then it will make your life so much easier.
What to do if your child keeps coming out of the room? When this happens it is important for you to stay calm and keep bringing them back to bed. Tell them goodnight and that you love them and then leave them again. You may need to do this multiple times (maybe even twenty times). Consistency is going to be key.
What to do if your child is screaming/crying
? Reassure them that they are safe in their room and that you are just in the other room. You may have to leave them in there crying, again let them know that you are just in the other room and that you will come back in and check on them in a little bit.
These are just a few ideas. If you have any other questions about bedtime or you just want to chat to see if I can help you feel free to email me or call the school and we can set up a time to chat.