I know as both a parent and professional just how important sleep is to your child’s behavior and learning. Bed time & nap time are some of our favorite ways to provide language enrichment by simply talking and reading to your child. Is bed time or nap time a struggle for you? Michelle Winters, a pediatric sleep coach and owner of Sleepwell Solutions, provided us with an excellent guest post with a few simple ways to help your child sleep.
A Few Simple Ways to Help Your Child Sleep
Are your children getting enough sleep? Sleep is so important for children as well as adults for many reasons. Sleep can even affect your children’s memory and learning in an adverse way. http://healthysleep.med.harvard.edu/healthy/matters/benefits-of-sleep/learning-memory So how can you help your child get the correct amount of sleep? I will discuss several simple methods to hopefully improve your child’s sleep.
Make sure bedtime is early enough
Did you know that children aged 5 – 9 should get an average of 10 – 11 hours of sleep at night? That means if they are waking around 7, they should be asleep between 8 and 9. If your child is overtired at bedtime, they are more likely to wake during the night and earlier in the morning. This means if your child is waking very early in the morning, moving bedtime earlier can actually cause them to sleep later in the morning.
Have a calm, relaxing bedtime routine
A great way to get a child ready for bed is to have a nice, calm, relaxing bedtime routine. Many books recommend having a bath as part of the bedtime routine, but if a bath works your child up, having one earlier in the day may be better for your child. Try to dim lights and turn off electronics about an hour before your child’s bedtime. Our bodies secrete melatonin, a calming hormone when we are ready to go to sleep. Darkness helps our body know that it is time to secrete melatonin. Reading books with your child is a great addition to a bedtime routine. Not only is it a calm relaxing thing to do, it can increase literacy and help a child learn to love to read.
Have a sleep conducive environment
While we cannot force a child to fall asleep, we can make the environment as conducive to sleep as we can. The environment should be fairly dark (nightlights are a personal preference), fairly quiet (although I do recommend white noise machines to drown out outside noises), and comfortable. Another thing to consider is how your child’s room looks when they fall asleep at night and how it looks when they wake during the night. We all have partial awakenings during the night when our body is switching through sleep cycles. If your child wakes up and things are drastically different, they may need help falling back asleep.
Make sure your child gets enough sleep during the day (if appropriate for their age)
If your child is at an age where they should be napping, make sure they are getting enough sleep during the day. The average age for a child to drop a nap is between 3 and 4. If your child is older than that and still napping, I would only recommend taking it away if they cannot fall asleep at night at a reasonable time. In fact, a study was done that showed daytime naps enhanced preschoolers’ memories. http://www.usnews.com/news/articles/2013/09/23/daytime-naps-enhance-preschoolers-memory
If your child is beginning to not nap, I still encourage letting them have some quiet time during the day so that they can relax, and you can too! This will also allow them the time to fall asleep if they still occasionally need a nap.
Michelle Winters, of SleepWell Sleep Solutions is a Pediatric Sleep Consultant and Greenproofer. Michelle assists parents in creating a gentle, respectful sleep plan to help their children get the sleep they need to be happy and healthy. She can also assist families identify and remove toxins in their environment.