You have just finished the admission process at school and you are aghast to realize that the school bus picks them up at 7 am. Your child usually sleeps till 8 am.
Sleep is very important to a child’s well-being. Lack of sufficient sleep can make them hyperactive, disagreeable and can lead to extreme changes in behavior. A preschooler typically needs 10 to 12 hours of sleep. This can include an afternoon nap for an hour.
Although a trifle tedious, the good news is that a sleep pattern, once established, is a one-time effort as it can last for the entire school life. Here are a few pointers to help you cope:
- Start with small increments: Start slow. Shift the bedtime by a few minutes every second day. If the purpose is to establish a routine before say, the school reopens, then start at least two months in advance.
- Go in for an overhaul of the entire routine: If the bedtime needs to be fifteen minutes early, then consequently dinner, bath time, television time – all has to be shifted up fifteen minutes.
- Stick to a consistent routine: Do not let them stay up during weekends. A consistent routine makes it easier for your child to adapt. One late weekend is all it takes for your child to learn how enjoyable it is to stay up and have fun.
- Keep distractions out of the room: Devices like computers, television, video games wind up their minds and it takes considerable time for them to unwind later. Read a bedtime story together. This will relax your child and can become a special bonding activity between the two of you. The room should be quiet and not be disturbed by noises from activities outside the room.
- Keep an eye on food and exercise: Make sure they do not consume any food products that are high in sugar or caffeine content, at least two hours before bedtime. This can make them hyperactive. A reasonable amount of exercise like running, cycling can do wonders to sound sleep. However, care must be taken that it is not done too close to bedtime as the body needs time to settle down after exercise.
- Change the family bedtime: One of the main reasons children do not want to sleep is because they do not want to leave people and interesting things happening in the house. One way to handle this is for the whole family to go to bed earlier along with the child. If this is too early for you, you can pretend to go to bed and switch off the lights till such time that your child falls asleep.
- Be persistent with the routine: Once the bedtime routine and time is established, do not give in to demands for changes. Draw boundaries and stick to it.
It is never easy to change a habit and children used to sleeping late can be very resistant to an earlier schedule. But with patience and perseverance, you will be able to establish a healthy and relaxing sleep pattern for your child.