When it comes to children and sleep, one frequent concern parents have is how to get them to bed on time every night. There isn’t a parent out there who hasn’t had to deal with the difficulty of putting a child to bed at least at some point. For many parents, getting their child to bed is a recurring nightmare.
This does seem somewhat strange as children need much more sleep than adults. Yet, some children resist going to bed with every fiber in their bodies. This causes quite a strain for both parents and kids.
When children don’t get enough sleep, they have a more difficult time dealing with their emotions. They may become hyper or irritable, which is not very fun for anybody involved. In addition, children who are sleep deprived are more likely to suffer behavioral problems and have trouble learning and paying attention.
There are no hard and fast rules concerning bedtime for children and every child is different. But it is important that you get your child to bed at a decent time every night. Your pediatrician in New Braunfels offers tips to get your kids to go to bed.
For children, bedtime means separation. As such, it can be easier for them to go to bed if they bring along a personal item like a blanket, doll or teddy bear. Items like this can provide a sense of control and security that keeps your child reassured as they fall asleep.
Your child’s bedroom should be quiet, dark and the noise level in the rest of the house low. Most children have a fear of the dark, so you may need a small night light. You can also leave a hall light on instead.
Encourage your child to get as much natural light as possible during the day. Bright light suppresses melatonin and helps your child feel alert and awake all day. Then, come bedtime, your child should be worn out and sleepy.
Eat Right and On Time
Parents need to make sure children eat at a reasonable time every night and that they have a satisfying evening meal. If your child eats too soon, they could go to bed feeling hungry. Waiting too long to eat leaves children too full to go to sleep.
You make sure your child doesn’t slam a cup of coffee before bed, but there are other drinks you need to avoid. Caffeine is in energy drinks, tea, cola and hot chocolate. Don’t serve these beverages to kids in the evening.
Electronic screens are not a good idea before bed as the light stimulates the brain. All this will do is make children feel wired at the time they should be winding down. The light on the screens can also inhibit the production of serotonin and melatonin.
Ideally, your kids should be turning off tablets and smartphones at least two hours before they go to bed. There are other benefits to limiting screen time. Kids who aren’t glued to a screen are more active, they burn more energy and that makes it easier for them to settle down at night.
Get a Routine
Sticking to a set bedtime will help children feel secure as it offers predictability. Kids and parents should go to bed and wake up at the same time every day. This means you might have to discourage sleeping in on the weekends. It also means you shouldn’t be sleeping in on the weekends.
Hormones play a critical role in sleep. The stress hormone, cortisol, can cause children sleepless nights. When cortisone levels are high, your child’s body won’t shut down and go to sleep.
You want to keep before bedtime activities calm, you want to keep lights dim and you want the environment quiet. This all works to keep cortisol levels low in the evening.
Work as a Team
It is very important that you talk with and agree on a sleep strategy for your child with your partner or spouse before making any changes. Make your child a part of the team by including them in the plan. If your child is very young, try using pictures or a chart to explain the new routine.
If you suspect your child has a sleep disorder, give River Valley Pediatrics a call.