By: Peggy Komadina (9/26/2013)
It is hard to believe September is already coming to an end. These first few weeks of school have flown by! Our family had a very relaxing summer filled with swimming, hiking, biking, gardening, and a trip to Florida. It was a time to slow down and unwind from the hustle and bustle of the school year and I am so thankful we had the opportunity to do so! Now that we are back to school, it also feels good to be settling back into a routine and working hard doing what we love each day, and at the end of each day I am very aware of how hard we all have worked because we are all exhausted.
So I want to tell you, I love bedtime. I mean, I really love bedtime. My husband makes fun of me I love it so much! I love to get into my cozy jammies, get under my blankets, have a cup of chamomile tea and enjoy the peace. Whether I am reading or just sitting quietly reflecting on the day (or, who am I kidding, looking at Pinterest), I just love it!
Unfortunately many children do not share my enthusiasm for bedtime, even though their bodies require so much sleep. Sleep is essential to a child’s health and growth. Sleep promotes alertness, and performance. When a child doesn’t get enough sleep it affects them much differently than it might an adult. Children who are lacking sleep often tend to “rev up” rather than slow down the way an adult might. Some symptoms of too little sleep are:
- Moodiness and irritability
- Temper tantrums
- Tendency to emotionally explode
- Over-activity and hyperactive behavior, difficulty focusing
- Grogginess in the morning
- Reluctance to get out of bed
How much sleep does your child need? While each child is different, the National Sleep Foundation recommends:
- 1-3 years of age need 12 to 14 hours of sleep
- 3-5 years of age need 11-13 hours of sleep
- 5-12 years need 10-11 hours of sleep
That is a lot of sleep! So, how can we help our children get this much needed sleep?
- The very most important thing we can do is a consistent routine. I know this can be so tricky. We are so busy! Soccer practice, piano, gymnastics, band concerts, making dinner, work meetings, business trips, and on and on make having a bedtime routine feel impossible sometimes. It is so worth it though. Our children rely on us to make all of that bustling stop and respect their need for sleep and peace.
- A typical bedtime routine might include having a light snack, taking a warm soothing bath, putting on pajamas, brushing teeth, and reading a story. This routine is not just for the very young; my 12 year old still does all of this except the bath has turned into a shower and I don’t read him his story anymore.
- Sleepforkids.org recommends making bedtime the same time every night.
- Make bedtime a positive and relaxing experience by making sure your child’s room is quiet and at a comfortable temperature without TV or videos.
- Encourage your child to fall asleep on their own. Say goodnight and leave the room. It is important for them to know sleep is a positive thing and they have the ability to fall asleep without you staying with them while they drift off or even if they wake in the night.
Nightmares, night time waking, and fear of the dark are all very common in children. This can be very difficult on the entire family. The good news is this is usually temporary. Again, encourage your child to fall back to sleep on their own. It is important to let your child find ways to soothe themselves during these times. Staying with your child until they are able to fall back to sleep can begin a pattern of reliance on you to be their only way of finding comfort. They need to find the tools for independence and you need your rest.
- Sometimes we need help. Your child’s pediatrician is a wonderful resource. Not only can they give you additional tips and tools, they can refer you to people who can help.
Helping our children establish good sleep habits is one of our most important contributions to their learning and success. So I wish you and your child pleasant dreams and rejuvenating sleep. Good night.