According to the National Sleep Foundation, by age 2, children have spent more time sleeping than awake. Throughout childhood, children will spend about 40% of their time asleep. What happens when children don’t sleep enough? When children don't get enough sleep, they may have a harder time controlling their emotions, and are more likely to have difficulty with impulse control, paying attention, and learning.
We talked with Sue Illg, a Family Life Specialist from Sanford CHILD Services, to find out more about how your kids can benefit from these bedtime habits.
- Make consistent sleep a family priority. Set regular go-to-bed and wake-up times for the entire family and be sure to follow them—even on weekends. Children that get enough sleep will fall asleep within 15 to 30 minutes of going to bed, wake up easily in the morning, and won't fall asleep during the day.
- Work as a team. It's important to discuss and agree on a sleep strategy for your child with your partner. If you are starting a new sleep routine for your child, make them part of the team! Allowing your child to have some control in things regarding bedtime, such as what story to listen to or what pajamas to wear to bed, will make it more enjoyable for them.
- Bedtime snacks. A small snack before bedtime can help your child’s body stay fueled through the night, but be sure to choose a healthy option that will promote sleepiness. Snacks with complex carbohydrates, a piece of fresh fruit, or milk naturally will activate hormones to help your child be ready to sleep.
- Limit screen time before bed. Encouraging smart sleep habits, like having your children turn devices off an hour before bedtime, will give their brains enough time to relax and prepare for bed. Visual stimulation too close to sleeping can harm their quality of sleep. Check out this blog for ideas on minimizing screen time.
- Sleep environment. Make sure your child’s bedroom promotes sleep. Dark, quiet, and cool rooms are best. If your child likes to sleep with a personal object, like a doll, teddy bear, blanket, or other comfort item, make sure they have it with them. Security objects can provide a sense of comfort and control that reassures your child before falling asleep. Is your child’s room ready for bed? Take our Sleep Zone Quiz to find out.
- Active during the day, sleep during the night. Making sure your child is physically active during the day is important to ensuring your child is sleepy come nighttime. However, it is important not to schedule too many things close to bedtime. Use the day to get all the energy out, but use the evenings to encourage activities that are calming for the body and brain.
- Be patient. Children will always ask for that one last thing – kisses, hugs, a drink of water, using the bathroom, or just one more book. Do your best to anticipate by incorporating these small rituals into the bedtime routine to ensure that everything is done before your child goes to bed. Don’t expect perfection right away though. According to Sue Illg, from Sanford CHILD Services, expecting setbacks can help to keep bedtime calm for you and your child. “Things like unexpected company, illness, nightmares, etc. can interrupt sleep routines. If your child gets out of a routine, it usually takes 2 to 3 nights to reestablish the routine.”
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