How to help your child sleep in the new school year
Sleep is extremely important to the health and wellbeing of your child. More and more studies are showing that lack of sleep can affect the performance and concentration of children (and adults too!).
Children, in particular, are susceptible to fatigue caused by lack of sleep and even 25 minutes less sleep per night can affect their grades.
Having a sleep routine, with a fixed bedtime, is one way to ensure that your child gets enough hours in bed, but this routine can very easily be thrown to the back of the cupboard along with the school uniform during the holidays!
So how do you ensure that your child follows a good bedtime routine in a new school year?
At this point, you first need to calculate…
How many hours of sleep does your child need?
Children need more sleep than adults to fuel their bodies with all of the energy demands of growing and learning, among other things. However, how much depends on the age and needs of the individual child. From the age of 3 to 5 years, they need a good 11-13 hours of sleep, whereas 7-10-year-olds generally need 10-12 hours.
Older children, 12 years and over, need at least 9-10 hours of sleep.
Why do children resist bedtime?
Now you know how many hours of sleep your child needs, the next challenge is to get them to bed on time. Some children may resist going to bed… quite vehemently and enthusiastically!
Children can resist bedtime for several reasons:
- Electronic devices – Mobile games are notoriously addictive and are designed to be so. Most adults find it difficult to stop playing, so you can’t really expect children to stop as soon as you ask them.
- Overtiredness – Many people think that exhausting a child will make them easier to put to bed, but this can actually very often have the opposite effect! Overtiredness causing the body to have an increase of adrenalin, the wide-awake hormone! This is a leftover trait from our caveman days when we needed to protect ourselves from being eaten, and all down to our flight of flight reflex kicking in.
- Punishment association – Sending children to bed to punish them builds a negative association in their minds. Then, if they aren’t being naughty, they see no reason why they should be sent to bed, especially when they are doing something fun.
- Negotiation – If that request for ‘just one more bedtime story’ is met one night, expect it to be repeated! Don’t negotiate around bedtime, have a set routine stick to it and make sure everyone knows exactly what the rules are. (And set a 2-book rule for LIFE!)
- Caffeine – Another culprit that affects sleep is caffeine found in fizzy drinks and even chocolate. Caffeine also contributes to late-night toilet trips. Avoid these close to bedtime.
Helping your child get enough sleep in the new school year
Now that you know why your child does not want to go to bed, here are some things you can do to get your child to bed happily and without fuss.
Bring Bedtime Forward
If you notice your children aren’t waking up well-rested in the morning, try bringing their bedtime forward at night gradually.
If you make them go to bed half an hour earlier, they will protest. However, if you bring it forward 5 to 15 minutes at a time, both you and your child will find it easier.
Using a sleep clock can also really help to set a clear boundary for them to understand when it is morning. The KidSleep Classic clock is our favourite. It is really simple and young children relate really well to the animal characters being in bed or awake.
Back this up with an instant reward for staying in bed until the clock says its morning. A sticker and a chocolate button work wonders for most!
If you ask your children to stop what they are doing 5 minutes before bedtime, they will resist. It’s only natural.
On the other hand, having a ‘pre-sleep’ routine that starts much before bedtime can help ease your child into ‘bedtime mode’.
They could have a bath half an hour before sleep-time, or there might be a 15-20 minute story-time or reading time. This type of set routine helps their brain and body get the cue that sleep is coming soon, without the transition being too abrupt.
Electronic devices, mobile phones, tablets, and gaming platforms should be put away an hour before bedtime as the light from these devices can affect sleep.
Also, it’s difficult to for your child to sleep if they are cranky about the lost playtime! This includes TV so make sure ‘In the Night Garden’ happens well before the night starts!
Make the Environment Conducive to Sleep
After a gentle sleep-time routine, it is terribly counterproductive if the bedroom is too stimulating. Keep the room dark to promote sleep and try to make sure the temperature is even and comfortable. In general, we sleep better in cooler temperatures, though there is a matter of personal preference.
Bedroom Should Not Be Punishment
As mentioned before, making their bedroom a place of punishment creates a negative association. You can see why a child would not want to go there if they’ve been good.
If you want your child to go to bed without resisting, try to find another place for time out. Alternatively, try using positive reinforcement instead of punishment.
While it’s not a good idea to have a heavy meal too close to bedtime, your child must have eaten a proper meal. A hungry (and therefore irritable) child will find it difficult to sleep, so just make sure that mealtimes are a couple of hours before bedtime.
A quick supper snack just before the bedtime routine starts is fine. Ideally, it should be something that contains tryptophan – an amino acid, which the body converts to serotonin, helping you feel relaxed. That old adage of a warm milky drink helping you sleep does hold some truth because of this but many other things contain it.
Learn more about the importance of sleep and what sleep consultants certified by Baby Sleep the Night™ can do for you.
If, however, none of these tips helps your child sleep better at bedtime, you can get some extra help.
Child sleep consultants certified by Baby Sleep the Night™ can design a gentle caring plan to get your child to sleep when they are supposed to, with very little fuss.
Get in touch with one of them for a free 15-minute consultation!