Many children (and their parents) are still struggling to find their circadian rhythm. If this sounds like you, here are 7 tips that may help you and your school-aged sleep avoider get back into the bedtime swing of things.
1. Determine How Much Sleep Your Child Needs
Finding out how much sleep is appropriate for your school-aged child can feel like a Calculus final exam question you’d find in a particularly chilling nightmare. There are general guidelines available online to help you narrow it down, but some children need more sleep than others depending on their age and level of physical activity. It may take a couple of weeks to figure out how much sleep your children need, especially since back-to-school may mean more (or less) screen time and physical activity if they are doing online learning at home.
2. Establish a Routine
Contrary to what your eyes and experience would have you believe children crave structure and routine. Bedtime can be a wonderful time for both you and your child, but it will take some sacrifice and diligence (and more than a few tears) on both your parts. Find a few things you both enjoy at bedtime- whether that is reading a book, a lullaby, or just talking about the day—incorporating these little touches will make bedtime something to look forward. Making bedtime a time for connecting will pay dividends as your child gets older because it establishes open channels of communication and a special trust between you. As with all things with children, the minute your child’s sleep routine seems to be working, it will probably change. So be sure to re-evaluate the sleep schedule regularly.
3. Start Bedtime Earlier
Forewarning is forearming in the battle for bedtime. About 30 minutes before the bedtime routine is set to begin, start dropping subtle hints like, “What book would you like to read tonight?” If your child may prefer a more direct approach, pick up a special timer that your child can use to count down to lights out. This encourages independence and instils confidence; and after all, isn’t that what we all really want for our kids?
4. Eliminate Sugary Food & Beverages
Eliminating sugar before bed isn’t just a good tip for incorporating into our children’s bedtime routines. Like caffeine, sugar gives us a little jolt of energy followed by a long, hard crash. Being overtired is just as likely to cause agony at bedtime as being strung out on a Double-Double or box of Tim Bits. Limiting drinks for the last hour before bed is another tip that benefits children and adults equally. Less night-time bathroom visits means a longer, more productive night’s sleep.
5. Limit Screen Time
As with Bedtime Tip #4, limiting screen time before bed is as beneficial for parents as for their children. The blue light from the screens on our computers, phones, and tablets is a stimulant like sugar and caffeine. It also causes eye strain that can cause headaches and irritability at bedtime, and that’s something we all want to avoid. Turning off our tablets and televisions is easier said than done, but to be effective, parents should lead by example and put devices down (at least until the kids are asleep). Turn this time into a technology free time to connect as a family. Quiet crafts, reading, playing with toys, or something uncover something new to do before bed as a family. (Be sure to tell us what that something new is!)
6. Kid Created Sleep Space
Allow your children to participate in creating their own sleep environment. Let them choose their bedding or contribute their thoughts to bedroom decor. When they feel like they have had some control over their personal space will give them confidence, independence, and may even make for some enthusiastic reactions when you say, “time for bed!” This also shows your child that their voice is being heard by you, and that their opinions matter. Again, as they get older, having this trust affirmed and reaffirmed will be so important for those teen years.
7. Physical Activity
Just like Tips 4 and 5, physical activity is as important for adults as for their children in establishing good sleep routines. Whether your children play organized sports or simply run around in the backyard, daily physical activity helps them (and you!) get a good night's sleep. Just 30 minutes of activity will release dopamine and oxytocin which make you feel relaxed and content and contribute to a better bedtime. If your children don’t enjoy exercising, find fun activities that get them moving without thinking - it’s great for their mood and overall health! Swimming, scavenger hunts, hop scotch, hide and seek, even throwing a ball for the dog are good places to start. What other creative activity encouragers can you think of?
Before you put the kids to bed, make sure to pay us a visit if you need help finding the right mattress for the best night's sleep! Sweet dreams!