One of the toughest challenges for many parents is getting their kids to stick to a bedtime routine. And when you add in longer holidays like Christmas or Spring Break, it can be tough to get them to adjust back to a school-day schedule.
We all know that sleep is crucial for a child’s growth and development. A study down by Dr. Elsie Taveras, chief of General Pediatrics at MassGeneral Hospital for Children, found evidence that lack of sleep puts a child at risk for obesity, diabetes and emotional problems. Bad sleep habits are also linked to poor school performance - which means we parents need to make sleep a priority!
After coming off of nights of staying up late and days of not getting up early, you might be hearing the words “No, I don’t want to go to bed!” a lot for a while. But with a little patience and a few tips, you can get your kids into a healthy, consistent sleep schedule.
Wind down with quiet activities
More than adults, children need time to wind down and relax before nodding off to sleep. Consider playing soothing music, reading their favorite book or playing a quiet game like puzzles or coloring. Other great tricks you can try include warm chamomile tea or milk which are known to induce sleepiness. Stay away from sugary treats and juices at night - they will keep them up for hours!
Make it dark
Creating a dim atmosphere and lower the lighting in your home or child’s room close to bedtime will help them fall asleep faster. Darkness tells your child that it is nighttime and puts them in the mode for sleep. If your child is afraid of the dark, consider adding nightlights to their room or get creative and add a glow-in-the-dark starry ceiling.
Stay away from screen time
Parents, no screen time before bed! At least 90 minutes away from the time you want them to be knocked out, cut off access to all screens. That means no iPads, iPhones, tablets, tv, video games, computer, or any other electronic devices. The bright light from screens alerts your child’s brain keep them awake much longer than normal. Studies have shown that when kids use devices with bright screens it can ruin a good night's sleep. One study found that two hours staring at an iPad suppressed levels of melatonin, a hormone that helps control the sleep-wake cycle, by as much as 22 percent.
Help them wake up with natural lighting
The way your child wakes up is just as important as how they do down. Waking a child up abruptly can disrupt their sleep cycle and affect their overall mood for the day. Try and give yourself an extra 15-30 minutes to gradually lure your child out of their sleep. Lighting is a great way to do this! Natural sunlight in the morning can help wake up the brain and keep circadian rhythms regulated. If you live in an area that doesn’t get a lot of sunlight, you can create a similar effect with dimming bulbs or a lightbox.
Good luck parents!
General Pediatrics at MassGeneral Hospital for Children. https://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2014-05/mgh-cis051414.php
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