It’s that time of year again and just as everything settles back to normal, your child starts waking in the night, not wanting to go to bed or waking early!!
Firstly – it’s normal so don’t worry – any big changes or worries can bring about bedtime battles so follow this guide to help get your child’s sleep back on track (and yours!)
Sleep and wellbeing studies show the benefits of sleep for our mental and social health, memory formation and the ability to cope with our surroundings. We all need sleep! Dr. Jodi Mindell, Associate Director at the Sleep Centre at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia reports that ‘not getting enough sleep really affects every aspect of a child’s well-being and functioning.’
How much sleep does my child need?
Firstly, consider how much sleep your child actually needs. Children need more sleep than adults due to the amount of growing and changes that happen. Most 3-5 year olds needs 11-13 hours of sleep per night and this reduces over age to 7-10 year olds who may only need 10-12 hours.
What might be affecting them from reaching their sleep needs?
Now you know how much sleep they need, now is the task of getting them to bed on time! There are several reasons why children may start resisting bedtime:
As a new school year begins, there can be several things causing your child to worry. Thinking about these can affect their ability to fall asleep.
Negotiations! Your child calls for one more kiss, or cuddle, or water or to be tucked in and before you know it there’s a list of demands and they’re no closer to falling asleep!
Another one, especially in younger children, is becoming overtired. This is really common and can actually lead to bedtime battles and refusal to go to bed peacefully – this is all due to adrenaline flooding their bodies.
Screen time and appropriateness of what they are watching can contribute to bedtime battles and can also affect early mornings as children want to get back to what they were watching or playing rather than having more rest.
Caffeine and diet can also affect bedtimes by affecting our sleep pressure, as well as creating the need for more toilet trips!
Try to avoid using bedrooms as a place for punishment as this can create more bedtime battles too as they associate it with negative consequence.
How can you help?
Firstly, try to keep to your usual bedtime routine.
Don’t have one? Get one! Ideal routines should be 30-40 minutes in length and should have the same activities done in the same order. They include the ‘getting ready for bed’ activities such as a bath or shower, teeth cleaning, pyjamas on and a story time.
Build in time to talk to your child about their day and any worries away from the bedtime routine. This allows them to be heard and not rushed and to have had some time to digest and solve any worries before going to sleep on them.
Keep your standards! A tough one. But if you’re called back for extra kisses, hugs, water, toilet trips etc. it’s a slippery slope to your child becoming convinced that they need you there for every night waking and it becomes hard to leave.
Try an earlier bedtime, especially for younger children.
Consider your child’s TV or gaming quantities for their age, how close it is to bedtime and the appropriateness of what they are watching or playing.
Remove caffeine from your child’s diet – evidence shows that caffeine can really affect the quality and quantity of sleep and isn’t recommended for growing children. ‘In children, caffeine can raise blood pressure and interfere with sleep. It can make children less aware of being tired. It can affect their moods and make anxiety worse. They can even suffer headaches from caffeine withdrawal.’ (Familydoctor.org)