The importance of sleep is often raised in the media. Parents can be left feeling criticised and helpless. Instead of beating yourself up about the fact that your children may not be getting enough sleep, here are some easy ways to help them get into good habits and for you to tell if they’re getting enough sleep.
So first things first, is your child getting enough sleep?
Is your child difficult to wake in the morning, or grumpy, aggressive or very quiet in the evenings? If so, the chances are he or she needs more sleep.
But how can you get a child who insists he’s not tired and doesn’t want to go to bed to get enough sleep? It’s especially difficult in the summer with the lighter nights and warmer days.
As with most things, making it into a game can help, but it’s all in the planning. Children often have excess energy and giving them something active to do about an hour before can help them get rid of that energy whilst still leaving time for them to calm down. After the energetic game, a bath can help relax a child and can be the start of a routine that will act as a conditioning trigger to help children to relax into sleep. Use this time to talk to your child so you can discuss worries and fears so that there is less chance of a child getting into bed with unresolved issues going around in his head.
A milky drink, banana or other small, healthy snack can also form part of the routine – sucking is a natural stress relief action so consider giving children a drink through a straw, drinking bottle, or sippy cup. Having this snack whilst reading a book, either curled up with you, or on their own if they’re old enough and enjoy independent reading will clear their minds and allow the body to relax.
Keep the room calm and as dark as possible. If you live in a noisy area, an audiobook or soft music can help mask external noises that may keep a child awake.
It’s important to help children listen to their own bodies so model this for them to copy and learn from. If you’re tired, get ready for bed with them and show them that going to bed is an enjoyable end to a busy day, and is not any form of punishment or a tool for getting children out of the way.