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Tried and tested tips to get kids to sleep quicker

Posted in: Family Last updated: 01 Jan 2017
Child who does not want to eat her vegetables

You’ve finally slumped down on the sofa, glass of red wine in hand, to catch the last half of the season finale you’ve been glued to all year...

And then you hear the gentle pitter patter of small feet down the stairs and the inevitable whisper of “Daaaaad, I can’t sleep.”

When you’ve got babies and young children, the whole concept of getting  eight hours of sleep a night can seem like a distant memory. Bedtime can feel like a never-ending battle of wills between parents and children alike until one side eventually surrenders.

Is your child getting enough sleep?

Sleep plays an important part in brain development. Scientific evidence has shown that the right amount of sleep can be as important in a child’s development as regular exercise and diet. And yet,  one in five  parents feel that their children are not sleeping enough [1].

"Not only do we consolidate memory and learning when we sleep," says Professor Paul Gringras [2], "but poor sleep impacts on areas like growth, immunity and blood pressure. It's no exaggeration to say that, every day, research is linking another area of physical health to sleep."

Here’s some advice to make bedtime that little bit easier.

Routine

It’s boring and predictable, but that’s the whole point. Setting out – and sticking to – a regular bedtime routine has a settling and calming influence on young children. Let them know what’s coming next and keep to it.

Bath time, story, snuggles and sleep is probably the most common routine, but experiment with whatever combination, and order, works best in your household.

And in case you were wondering why a bedtime bath works such magic, Joyce Walsleben, Associate Professor, Department of Medicine NYU explains; your body temperature naturally drops at night and so "if you raise your temperature a degree or two with a bath, the steeper drop at bedtime is more likely to put you in a deep sleep"[3].

Ban screens before bed

When the light fades at the end of the day, it triggers our pineal gland to produce melatonin – a hormone that helps us to feel drowsy and less alert. Bright lights, especially light on the blue-green spectrum emitted from computer and TV screens, stops the natural production of melatonin, preventing sleep [4].

Put a ban on screen time for at least an hour before bed – this includes TV, tablet, phone, and laptop screens.

This can be especially tricky for older children who appear to be glued to their phones at all hours of the day and night, but try insisting that they charge their phones in another room and buy a cheap alarm clock so they have no excuses.

Set up the perfect sleep environment

Good blackout blinds, soft, continuous music or audiobooks and a cool bedroom temperature are all conducive to a good night’s sleep.

If your child wants a night light, make sure it is dim or a red light, which the brain is not so sensitive to.

Dealing with the monster under the bed

As your child’s imagination begins to develop [5], it’s completely normal for them to develop the odd irrational fear about what’s lurking under the bed or in the wardrobe.

Rather than dismissing their fears as ridiculous, try giving them the tools to overcome their fears. A soft animal as a protective guardian or ‘Monster spray’ (water and lavender oil in a craftily labelled spray bottle) can work wonders.

Be boring

When your child wakes up and slinks into the living room to disturb your ‘you-time’, take them quietly and calmly back to bed, interacting with them as little as possible. The aim is to be boring. Give them all the cues that they’re not missing out on any fun and that now is not a time to play.

Reward system

For children that are old enough to understand, try setting up a rewards system whereby they get a star on a chart for each consecutive night they manage to settle themselves if they wake up, rather than getting out of bed. Set clear expectations.

Once they’ve achieved a set number of stars, reward them with something they’ve been angling for. Its positive re-enforcement, bordering on bribery but it can have great results!

Note: Whilst we take care to ensure Hub content is accurate at the time of publication, individual circumstances can differ so please don’t rely on it when making financial decisions.

1 http://www.bbc.co.uk/schools/parents/sleep_matters/

2 https://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2013/jun/08/bedtime-blues-get-children-to-sleep

3 http://www.health.com/health/condition-article/0,,20189095,00.html

4 https://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2013/jun/08/bedtime-blues-get-children-to-sleep

5 https://sleepfoundation.org/sleep-topics/children-and-sleep/page/0/2