How Do I Get My Kids to Go to Sleep?

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Bedtime — to a kid, it is a dirty word and for parents, it can be a nightmare! Putting a child to bed can be a lot of work and there is no guarantee that all those steps will even keep the child in the bed for the entire night. But as parents, we often jump through crazy hoops to maintain our routines because we truly believe they work. Research has finally validated all those tired parents out there striving to create the perfect bedtime environment, by providing a link between regular bedtime routines and reduced rates of obesity later in life.

A study by Ohio State University found that a regular bedtime routine can reduce the likelihood of obesity in children. They also indicated that eating meals at the same time of day and watching less than half an hour of TV can also be associated with lower risks of obesity later in life. Researchers found that children who have a routine for one or more of these activities can regulate their emotions better which also decreases the chances for obesity later in life.

Dr. Sarah Anderson, an associate professor in Ohio State’s College of Public Health and the lead author of the report, said: “Sleep is so important and it’s important for children in particular. Although there is much that remains unknown about how sleep impacts metabolism, research is increasingly finding connections between obesity and poor sleep.” Several studies that mention a correlation between poor sleep and obesity point to the decreased physical activity, irregular eating schedules, and poor food choices for those who do not receive enough sleep. And a great way to increase the quality and duration of sleep is to develop a bedtime routine. It signals the body that it is time for us to go to sleep.

So how much sleep does your child actually need? Well that depends on their developmental stage. The research states that toddlers (1 to 3 years) for instance need 10 to 13 hours of sleep a night and it may be helpful to use a nightlight or some type of security object to help them feel safe at bedtime. The amount of sleep your child needs decreases as they age. Preschoolers (4 to 5 years) need 10 to 12 hours of sleep each night. Children in this stage of development usually require just an afternoon nap (usually after lunch) that lasts one or two hours. As your children’s imaginations develop, nighttime fears or nightmares may become more common. Discuss your child’s fears and anxieties and give him or her reassurance.

As your child enters the school age years (5 years and older) their bedtime should adjust according to his/her age and sleep needs, but maintain a consistent routine and schedule. School-age children need about 10 hours of sleep each night. Adolescents need even less sleep – about nine hours every night. When a child reaches adolescence, his/her brain’s sleep cycle (circadian rhythms) shifts. Think of circadian rhythms as the body’s clock or internal indicator of when it is time to sleep and wake up. As a result of the shift in circadian rhythms, adolescents typically go to sleep and wake up later than younger children. Which is why it seems like they could sleep all day.

If you have yet to develop a bedtime routine for your child try the sample routine provided below or adapt it to fit your family. Make sure that you give your child a bedtime every night and let them know what time bedtime routine activities will start. Routines should be refined and adjusted as your child ages and the amount of sleep they need changes.

Sample Routine:

Routine begins at 7:15.

  1. Take a bath
  2. Put on pajamas
  3. Brush teeth
  4. Read a story
  5. Make sure the room is quiet and at a comfortable temperature
  6. Put your child to bed
  7. Tuck your child under the covers, smile and reassure your child that you’ll see him/her in the morning.
  8. Say “Goodnight, I love you” and leave.

Bedtime 8:00

Be sure you make bedtime a positive and relaxing experience without TV or videos. Television viewing prior to bed can lead to difficulty falling and staying asleep. Save your child’s favorite relaxing activities until before bed and do them in his or her bedroom. Our children grow up so fast. Make this quality family time for you and your child. It may be the only time you get to spend together after a busy day. So protect this simple bedtime routine for your child. Not only do you get the benefit of time with your child, but it can yield positive results for them throughout their lives.

A child Sleeping

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