Most parents accept and even expect fatigue when caring for infants. However, when sleep problems persist into the preschool and school age years, strategies can be used to help your child (and you as parents) get a better night’s sleep. Many children get far less sleep than the recommended amount. For instance:
- 3 year-olds typically require approximately 12 hours (including a nap)
- 10 year-olds generally need about 10 hours
- Teenagers should have about 9 hours of sleep each night
Insufficient sleep is linked with a variety of consequences, some of which include irritability, delayed motor responsiveness, poorer memory and focus, and an array of health problems. Whether your child refuses to go to bed, repeatedly gets out of bed before falling asleep, crawls into bed with you during the night, or takes a long time to fall asleep, the guidelines below will help your child get a better night’s rest.
(A) Before Bedtime:
- Create a bedroom environment that is conducive to sleep
- Remove electronics from the bedroom (telephone, television, videogames, etc.).
- Keep the bedroom cool and dark. If the child wants some light, use one nightlight.
- If your child enjoys playing with toys when it’s time for bed, make the toys inaccessible at bedtime (store them in the closet with child-proof handles).
- Keep it simple. Bedding and one security item (a stuffed animal or favorite blanket) are sufficient. Additional toys provide extra sources of distraction at a time when we don’t want the child to be distracted.
(B) Develop a bedtime routine
- Create a short routine before bedtime that involves quiet activities that occur in the same order every night. For example, have a snack, put pajamas on, brush teeth, go to the bathroom, say prayers, and read one book. It is important that this routine remains the same every night because the routine cues your child that bedtime is approaching.
- The length of the routine depends upon how much time you have available at night. Every night, you should allocate roughly the same amount of time for this routine. If you are like most families, your evenings are busy and keeping the routine relatively short will ensure that you have time to complete this routine every night.
(C ) Bedtime:
- Put your child to bed when she is still awake. Children learn how to fall asleep through practice. If you always rock your child to sleep, she will rely on rocking whenever she wakes during the night and needs to go back to sleep…yes, even at 3 in the morning.
- It is okay to leave the door cracked open if you feel more comfortable doing so. If she attempts an escape, return her to bed and close the door for the rest of the night.
- Tell her goodnight and remove yourself from the bedroom.