Child Sleep and the Importance of a Bedtime Routine

September 15th, 2011  |  Published in Parenting News

The best way to prevent sleep issues in children is to make sure they have a bedtime routine that is followed each and every night. If you are reading this, it means your sleep is being impacted in a negative way due to some sleep issues that your own child may be having. There are many things that you can incorporate into your child’s bedtime routine so that their sleep and your sleep are no longer in jeopardy. We hope to share some useful tips so that you and your family can get the rest that you need and deserve.

Lack of sleep

Having a lack of sleep affects everyone differently, but what is clear is that it is always in a negative way. We all know that when we don’t get enough sleep we get cranky. As adults we handle this pretty well by making up this sleep at other times. Children are different. When they aren’t sleeping well, they become overtired and cranky, often making it very hard for them to actually fall asleep, and snowballing the whole lack of sleep situation. Lack of sleep can cause poor concentration, poor schoolwork, reduced efficiency in all their activities, and did I mention it makes them cranky? Long term, a lack of sleep can start to take a toll on your child’s health.

How Much Sleep Should a Child Get?

All children are different and there will be a point in your life that you will just come to realize that your child functions best after so many hours of sleep. But, until you figure that out it can be very troubling for many parents. Here are some general guidelines:

o Under six months old: 16-20 hours each day
o Six months to 1 year: approximately 14 hours (including naps)
o One to three years: 10-13 hours each night, plus a daytime nap
o Four to six years: 10-12 hours each night, may or may not nap during day
o Six to ten years: 11-12 hours each night

As I said, this is a general guideline. Your child may verywell need more or less sleep than is recommended above. I have a five year old that only needs around 10 hours each night with no nap, and I have a four year old that needs around 13 hours each day, sometimes even more. We have come to learn this after a couple years of bad decisions, not realizing that they actually couldn’t fall asleep because we weren’t making sure that they got enough sleep to begin with.

The Importance of a Soothing Bedtime Routine

One thing is certain, all children will fall asleep better if they are eased into it in a relaxing manner. Set your child’s bedtime to be the same every single night. Young kids generally do better with some quiet time just before bed. This may include several things such as:

o A small healthy snack
o Story time with great bedtime story books
o Soft and soothing lullaby music
o A warm bath or shower
o Some fun and positive conversation with family

Certain TV shows are not recommended just before bedtime as they can impact the dreams of the child. If your family is big on having the TV on, keep shows light and educational. Reading stories is much more effective that TV time, and lullaby music or soft soothing music has been proven to alter the deepest parts of the brain in children, calming and soothing them in most situations.

Bedtime Comforts

Make certain your child has comfy pajamas. You must know how uncomfortable it can be to fall asleep in certain clothes and materials. Even though your child can’t always express that, they fall asleep much more easily when what their wearing is soft and comfortable. Let them pick out the pajamas that they want to sleep in. Allowing some decision making is important.

A child’s bedding is also important. Most children’s bedding is made in China and very uncomfortable for children. This is one of the reasons that I began a business based on children’s bedtime routines. I was tired of getting low quality bedding that was made in China and that felt like sandpaper. Look for soft cottons…just think about whether or not you would like to be sleeping with your face and skin against the fabrics that you are choosing for your child.

And, most important of all, make sure your child has their favorite stuffed buddy. This can often comfort them when they are feeling alone or scared while in their room.

Atmosphere

Nightlights can be pivotal. Most kids will fall asleep better if there is some light in their room. There are some great options out there from lava lamps to the Twilight Turtle. Playing soft music can also help a child drift off to sleep.

All of these tips are sure to make your evenings more pleasant. Children do respond better to transitioning from one activity to another if they are given some transition time, so always let them know the plan. Give them a countdown to each stage of their bedtime routine.

This is also the best time of the day to cuddle, snuggle and tell your child how much they mean to you and what a good job they did that day at something. Wouldn’t you like them to go to sleep with a happy thought in their head and a smile on their face?

Sleep Well!

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