By Julia Gorham
Is your child frequently whining, hyperactive, irritable, angry, aggressive, crying, oppositional, distracted, defiant, or impulsive? If any of these characteristics are common in your child, it may be time to consider if the amount of sleep your child is getting is impacting his/her emotional and behavioral functioning. The quality and quantity of children’s sleep impacts their brain development as well as their emotional and behavioral functioning. In order to regulate children’s emotional and behavioral functioning – the first place to start is with regulating their sleeping habits.
Thoughts about sleep
* The amount of sleep each child needs varies for children just like adults, but an average would be 11 – 14 hours for the preschool age group. This would include the number of hours a child sleeps during nighttime and naptime.
* Think about how many hours of sleep your child gets and also look for signs in your child that maybe they are not getting enough sleep such as: you have to wake them up in the morning; they fall asleep in the car or at odd times, or any of the characteristics discussed at the beginning of this article.
* Also, think about what time your child goes to bed at night – new research supports the importance of sleep in the earlier hours of the evening during which major brain development occurs.
1. Establish structure and routine. Why is it important?
* The sameness provides a sense of safety and security for the child.
* The sameness allows them to know what to expect and what is expected of them.
* The sameness reduces the need to discuss, negotiate, beg, whine and battle – they won’t even try once they know the rules.
* Structure and routine establishes parents as having authority in family and increases compliance with “rules” of the family – you are teaching them to follow rules
2. Schedule eating and sleeping times consistently
* It regulates their bodies and “sets their clocks” for when to eat and sleep.
* Hunger and fatigue are major contributors to unwanted behaviour.
* Sleep and wake times should be the same every day to regulate their sleep cycles.
3. Implementing a bedtime routine
* Create a “bedtime routine” (about 30 minutes) this should include the same steps every day in the same order.
4. Routine ideas
*Limit T.V (T.V. does not “relax” children as many parents think – it stimulates their brain)
*Do not let them decide when they are tired, when they are ready for bed – have a set bedtime and stick to it!
* Do not let them decide where to sleep (for example, sometimes the couch, sometimes your bed, sometimes their bed)
* Watch your child’s intake of sugar and caffeine (in general, but especially near bedtime)
* No roughhousing before bed.
* Rocking, feeding and/or lying down with your child is not recommended otherwise these things/or you will become required for them to go to sleep
* Instead, encourage your child to use a “transitional object” (for example, a stuffed animal or a blanket), which will help comfort them and relax them
* Make sure your daily schedule includes plenty of physical exercise during the day.
* Turn the lights down low; close the curtains (in the morning open the curtains and make sure your child gets plenty of exposure to natural sunlight)
* Create a calm, quiet, and positive atmosphere to implement your bedtime routine.
* End your child’s day with positive parent-child interactions and physical affection.