If you are a parent, chances are that you are well aware of the struggle of getting your little ones into bed on time. Unlike us grownups who would actually kill for some more sleep, kids hate going to bed. To them, it’s the end of all things fun, like ruining the newly wallpapered bedroom with pen scribbles, playing catch with your grandmother’s antique flower vase or dipping your Smartphone in the flush because “daddy, it gets thirsty too”. Be it 2 year olds or 10 year olds, getting them to sleep on time is an uphill battle.
Newborns and toddlers need around 16 to 20 hours of sleep per day. Children require an average of 9-12 hours of sleep per day. Children who do not get the required amount of sleep tend to be more problematic than those who do. Their emotions get out of control; they get easily irritable, irrational and hyper. They may also suffer from behavioral problems, focus issues or weight problems. As a parent, it is very important that you make sure your child gets the amount of sleep his/her body requires. The more important sleep is for the development of infants, toddlers and school going kids, the more unappreciated it is by them.
Learning what your child is feeling at bedtime and how you can resolve it is the key to getting them in bed and snoozing. Every parent has to struggle with opposition from their kids at bedtime. Let’s start by breaking down every parent’s struggle into phases.
Phase 1: Pooper and Tooters (0-1 Years)
This is the most difficult phase for a parent as the baby keeps waking up every few hours. Infants need to sleep 4 to 5 hours since they have small stomachs and cannot hold food in for very long. Once they get it out, they get hungry again! This can be quite disturbing for the parents too during the night since that is the time we fill up on our sleep. Here are a few tips you can use to get your crying poop machine back to sleep.
⦁ Get your spouse to take turns with you to feed the baby during the night. The baby will get up after every few hours, so one of should be ready to feed him/her. Once fed, chances are that the baby will go back to sleep.
⦁ Babies cannot differentiate between day and night. And after being fed, they are ready for some playtime. If the baby wakes up during the night and does not go back to sleep after being fed, try not to engage playfully with him/her. Keep the lights turned off and be as quiet and subdued as you can.
⦁ If your baby refuses to sleep, check the obvious details like are the baby’s clothes comfortable? Does he/she need a diaper change? Is the environment around the baby sleep inducing? Just like adults, babies also need a sleep inducing environment to sleep.
⦁ Make sure the baby is not over stimulated before bedtime. Playing peek-a-boo and piggyback rides are not a good idea before the baby’s bedtime.
Phase 2: Monsters and Bedtime Stories (1-6 Years)
This is the stage where you have to focus on setting a consistent bedtime routine for your growing child. At this age, a child needs to sleep around 11 – 12 hours per day.
⦁ Start by incorporating bedtime activities before putting your child to sleep. Set a routine of having the child brush their teeth and change into their jammies. Grab a book and cuddle up with them in bed and read them a story.
⦁ Keep the lights low and have them follow the bedtime routine at least an hour or thirty minutes before they get in bed.
⦁ Don’t let your child watch TV or go anywhere near digital screens or anything that gets them excited before bedtime.
⦁ The most important thing is to stay consistent with the bedtime routine even if your child does not sleep on time. This will enable their body to automatically detect bed time and start inducing sleep when the brain associates the bedtime routine with sleep.
⦁ If your child is wetting the bed or suffering from fear, be supportive and take action. For example, if the child complains of a monster in their room, you can help calm them down by spraying the room with ‘monster killer spray’.
Phase 3: Homework and Video Games! (7-12 years)
At this stage, your child has already gotten used to sleep. Kids this age require an average of 9 hours of sleep. The difficult part now is staying consistent with the bedtime routine. A proper sleep routine is very important for the child because the child needs to focus in school and that is not possible if he/she is sleep deprived.
⦁ Stick to the child’s bedtime routine and focus on bedtime hygiene as well. Kids this age have a tendency to nag when it’s sleep time (“Ten more minutes please mommyyy?”). Don’t fall for it and make them go to bed on time.
⦁ Do not allow activities that can cause the kids to be hyper before bedtime. These include video games, TV, iPads, phones etc. The bedroom environment has to be calm, dark and sleep inducing.
⦁ Do not allow the kids to stay up past their bedtime even on the weekends since it disturbs the body’s biological clock.
Despite the years of sleepless nights annoyed parents spend being woken up in the dead of the night by their children, they are always sad to see them go away to college or move out when they grow older. Hopefully these tips will help you and your children get some sleep and some amazing memories to look back upon down the lane.
About the Author
Eugene Gabriel is a passionate blogger. He has always been fascinated by sleep and how it relates to health and wellness. Read his post on How Sleep Changes with Age. You can follow him on twitter @eugenegabrielj.