“Go to bed! Please go to bed. Isn’t it time to go to bed?” does this sound familiar? Most parents would tell you that they often face some degree of difficulty in trying to get their kids to sleep early.
Kids resist going to bed for a wide variety of reasons. Sometimes, they may feel that life is so exciting that going to bed means 8 to 10 whole hours of missing out on something fun which might happen whilst they are sleeping. Sometimes, kids are distracted by TV programmes or games which they are reluctant to leave in order to sleep. Yet other children have a deep fear of the dark or feel insecure going to bed by themselves.
In all these cases, whatever the bedtime which you as a parent may have set, you will likely find that bedtime is a ritual of sending your kids off to bed, having them pop back up again for various reasons and then repeating the whole exercise again and again until you and they are completely exhausted.
It is true that there are some children who do sleep less or who prefer to take naps during the day. It is also true that every individual does have a sleep pattern which is hard to change – some people are early risers and some are night owls. However, having a certain amount of uninterrupted sleep each night is important for a child’s development and reducing the tussle and angst of bedtime will go a long way to making that happen.
Set a Regular Bedtime and Wake-Up Time
The first step to ensuring that your children have a consistent amount of sleep each night is to also ensure that they have a consistent time to sleep and to wake up.
Explain the importance of sleep to your child. Tell them that sleeping on time means that they will wake up fresh and happy the next day with more energy to do all the activities which they love to do.
Agree on the time which they need to wake up at and then work backwards 8 or 10 hours from then to set their daily lights-out time. When your children understand that in order to get 8 hours of sleep before school begins the next day that they need to sleep by 9pm or 10pm, they will begin to take the first step to accepting that as their regular bedtime. Doing so allows them to understand that the 9pm bedtime you are asking them to keep to isn’t an arbitrary number which you have come up with, but one based on their needs and their routines.
A Personal Alarm Clock
Buy each child a personal alarm clock. Doing so will tell them that you believe that they are capable and responsible enough to follow their bedtime and wake-up times. If you are the one who goes to them each morning to tell them it is time to wake up, they will also naturally expect you to be the one to tell them when to go to bed, instead of keeping track of the time themselves.
Have a Bedtime Routine
Routines help to prepare your children for the night and allow them to start the process of getting ready to sleep long before they even reach the bedroom. Build a routine for your children. It can be as simple as something which includes reading a bedtime story, followed by brushing teeth and kissing each other good night at a specific time. What’s important is, to make it regular and follow it closely.
Following a routine allows your child to become calm and before long, your child will physically anticipate bedtime at the start of the routine and begin to feel sleepy once you begin it.
Encourage Quiet Time before Bedtime
Doing something exciting and stimulating just before bedtime like playing video games, running around or watching TV will keep your children’s minds active and unsettled. This is not a state of mind which you want to have before bedtime. Try to turn devices and TVs off at least 1 hour before bedtime.
Minimise stress levels before bedtime. Don’t review your children’s homework, or scold them before bedtime. Don’t have an argument with your spouse before bedtime and try to keep your own stress levels under control in the evenings. Stress before bedtime will upset routines and leave your children and you unhappy, tense and anxious. All these conditions will make falling asleep very difficult.
Create a Good Sleep Environment
Make sure that your children sleep in a quiet and peaceful room. If they are afraid of the dark, a dim night light and a habit of leaving the door slightly ajar might be helpful. Some children sleep better with some soft “white noise” in the background such as the whir of a fan or the low hum of an air-conditioner.
Look Out for Sleep Disorders
If your children seem to have a persistent problem falling asleep or have very irregular sleep patterns and if you notice they are falling asleep at odd times during the day, you might want to consult a doctor to check if they have some form of sleep disorder. It may not be the case, but if you are in doubt, seeking medical advice is always a good idea.