Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Eight Sleep Tips for Every Child

By Elizabeth Pantley, author of The No-Cry Sleep Solution

Up to 70% of children under age five have sleep problems.Sleep issues are complicated and have many causes. They’re hard to deal withbecause when children aren’t sleeping, parents aren’t sleeping, and that lackof sleep affects every minute of every day for every person in the family because lackof sleep isn’t just about being tired. Sleephas a role in everything -- dawdling, temper tantrums, hyperactivity,growth, health, and even learning to tie his shoes and recite the ABCs. Sleepaffects everything.

The following ideas are of value to almost any sleeper, ofany age. These tips can bring improvement not only in your child’s sleep, butalso in her daytime mood and last, but not least – improvements in your ownsleep and outlook as well.

# 1 Maintain a consistentbedtime and awaking time.

Your child’sbiological clock has a strong influence on her wakefulness and sleepiness. Whenyou establish a set time for bedtime and wake up time you “set” your child’sclock so that it functions smoothly.

Aim for an early bedtime.Young children respond best with a bedtime between 6:30 and 7:30 P.M. Most children will sleep better and longer when they go to bed early.

# 2 Encourage regular daily naps.

Daily naps areimportant. An energetic child can find it difficult to go through the daywithout a rest break. A nap-less child will often wake up cheerful and becomeprogressively fussier or hyper-alert as the day goes on. Also, the length andquality of naps affects night sleep – good naps equal better night sleep.

# 3 Set your child’s biological clock.

Take advantage ofyour child’s biology so that he’s actually tiredwhen bedtime arrives. Darkness causes an increase in the release of the body’ssleep hormone -- the biological “stop” button. You can align your child’ssleepiness with bedtime by dimming the lights during the hour beforebedtime.

Exposing your childto morning light is pushing the “go” button in her brain — one that says, “Timeto wake up and be active.” So keep your mornings bright!

# 4 Develop a consistent bedtimeroutine.

Routines createsecurity. A consistent, peaceful bedtime routine allows your child totransition from the motion of the day to the tranquil state of sleep.

An organized routinehelps you coordinate the specifics: bath, pajamas, tooth-brushing. It helps youto function on auto-pilot at the time when you are most tired and leastcreative.

# 5 Create a cozy sleepenvironment.

Where your child sleeps can be a key to quality sleep. Makecertain the mattress is comfortable, the blankets are warm, the roomtemperature is right, pajamas are comfy, and the bedroom is welcoming.

# 6 Provide the right nutrition.

Foods can affectenergy level and sleepiness. Carbohydrates can have a calming effect on thebody, while foods high in protein or sugar generate alertness, particularlywhen eaten alone. A few ideas for pre-bed snacks are: whole wheat toast andcheese, bagel and peanut butter, oatmeal with bananas, or yogurt and low-sugargranola.

Vitamin deficienciesdue to unhealthy food choices can affect a child’s sleep. Provide your childwith a daily assortment of healthy foods.

# 7 Help your child to be healthy and fit.

Many children don’t get enough daily physical activity. Toomuch TV watching and a lack of activity prevents good sleep. Children who get ampledaily exercise fall asleep more quickly, sleep better, stay asleep longer, andwake up feeling refreshed.

Avoid activity in the hour before bedtime though, sinceexercise is stimulating – they’ll be jumping on the bed instead of sleeping init!

# 8 Teach your child howto relax.

Many children get in bed but aren’t sure what to do when theyget there! It can help to follow a soothing pre-bed routine that createssleepiness. A good pre-bed ritual is story time. A child who is listening to aparent read a book or tell a tale will tend to lie still and listen. This quietstillness allows him to become sleepy.

Work with these eight ideas and you’ll see improvements in your child’ssleep, and yours too.

Excerpted with permission by McGraw-Hill Publishingfrom TheNo-Cry Sleep Solution for Toddlers& Preschoolers (McGraw-Hill 2005)

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