Not getting enough sleep can be traumatic for any parent. It can cause problems with your work and also affect the health and education of your child. Most experts agree that school age children require 9-11 hours of sleep each night.
Lack of sleep for a child can become quite serious. A child’s temperament, behaviour and ability to learn can be seriously affected by lack of sleep. School performance can also be badly affected.
Your child may have difficulties going to sleep because they don’t want to miss out on the action! This is particularly true if older siblings are still up. Some children may simply not require as much sleep as others. You may be lacking a smooth transition from the day to going to bed, your child could also be overtired or simply under tired. Do decide if your child is getting the right amount of sleep for them or in fact is sleep deprived. A sleep deprived child could be hyperactive, cranky and have problems concentrating in school.
The following are just guidelines as it will vary from child to child but the guidelines are 10-13 hours for children agreed 3-5, 9-12 hours for children 6-12 and 8-10 hours for children aged 13-18.
Here are some strategies to make bedtimes run more smoothly. If the problem continues however you may want to see your GP and get a referral to a paediatrician.
It is essential that every evening you follow a bedtime routine. For example this could be bath, tooth brush, read. In addition, turn off the telly and turn off electronics at least an hour before bed as failure to do so can overstimulate your child. Encourage your child to read, or you offer to read to them. The idea here is to establish quiet activities which help your child’s body and mind to wind down ready for sleep. If you have older children get them to ensure that they are quiet when you are trying to put a younger sibling to bed.
Ensure your child’s bedroom has no computer or television in it. Also check the temperature, ideally you want a room that is not too hot or too cold. If the dark is a problem then invest in a nightlight. Try to set up a homework place outside of the bedroom so that your child associates the bedroom with sleeping and not working.
If you have a child that tries to play the system by getting up constantly for the toilet or wanting a drink or saying they are hungry, stay calm. Be gentle with your child but keep stressing that they have to go to sleep. Don’t let them come down and join you on the sofa your child will need to learn that they will not be ‘rewarded’ for getting up.
Try not to get too hung up on what everyones’ else’s child is doing. Also look at what routines work for your child. Gentle music playing may work with one child but not another.
We all think that it would be mad to let your child have a cup of coffee before bed but caffeine can be present in items that we are not aware of. Chocolate and bottled tea can all contain caffeine so do look at labels to ensure that caffeine is not behind your child’s inability to settle and sleep.