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Be sure to enforce a bedtime that allows your child to get enough sleep. Not the easiest of tasks, I’m sure, if you’re the parent of a teenager who would rather stay up late and watch TV or instant message his friends on the computer than get some extra shut-eye. If the computer, television, and video game system are all located within the privacy of your teen’s bedroom, an early bedtime may be the last thing on his mind. Here’s what I recommend: Remove the TV, the computer, and the video game system and let the bedroom be a place for sleep -- not recreation. No doubt your teen will react with mumbles and groans when you take this step, but it’s an important one, especially if your child’s grades are suffering.
From Good Kids, Bad Habits: The RealAge Guide to Raising Healthy Children by Jennifer Trachtenberg.
From a developmental-behavioral perspective sleep is about internal rhythms and self-soothing strategies. Getting to sleep involves being able to read and listen to environmental cues that tell the brain to rest.
Step 1: Establish clear rhythms and routines for your child. Children develop internal rhythms that tell their bodies to wake and sleep. Establish a sleeping routine. Order rather than time is key. Children have a need for mastery. If your child eats, bathes, reads with you and then gets into bed for sleep that is the beginning of a happy sleep routine. Do the same routine in the same order each night.
Step 2: Practice good timing. A 1-3 year old will sleep 12-14 hrs. every 24 hours. If your child naps, generally she will not sleep again for about six hours, on average. So if nap-time is 1:00-2:00 pm she will likely be ready to sleep again at 8:00 pm. One challenge I often see is nap-time that ends too close to bedtime. So consider your child’s sleep timing.
Step 3: Provide the opportunity for quality sleep. The environment signals to the brain…sleep. Getting night-shades or room-darkening shades so that your child can fall asleep may help. A sound machine or classical music is also a useful tool. Reading rather than TV has been found to assist in getting to sleep.
Step 4: Help your child learn to get back to sleep. Children generally arouse every 60-90 minutes, thus needing to have the self-soothing skills to get back to sleep. Having a love object in the bed that your child can hold for soothing may be key. If your child calls to you, assuming she is safe, wait a few minutes to see if she can soothe herself back to sleep.
Step 5: Celebrate Success. Preschoolers love recognition, it helps them feel cherished and important. A sticker chart over the bed that recognizes falling asleep and staying in one’s bed can be relished by children. Making a crown and celebrating your “sleep princess” in the morning at breakfast has also been known to be sweet and effective.
A lack of sleep can have a serious impact on children’s abilities to learn and perform at school.
In fact, in one recent study, Tel Aviv University researchers found that missing just one hour of sleep can be enough to reduce a child’s cognitive abilities by almost two years the next day. For example, a sixth grader who loses precious zzz’s the night before a big test could end up performing at a fourth grade level.
Set a bedtime and keep to it every single night.
Flashing images affect REM, so be sure to turn off the computer and television at least thirty minutes prior to bedtime.
Watch out for caffeinated sleep stealers like cold medications, chocolate, and those energy-drinks.
Take away the cell phones during nighttime hours—62% of kids admit they use it after the lights go out and their parents are clueless.
Watch as Dr. Michael Breus provides tips on how parents can help their child get a good night's sleep.
This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.