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Sleep and the Importance of Bedtime Routines


Children's Sleep Problems

Sleep problems in children and sleep issues refer to anything that occurs between the time children need to get ready for bed and the time they have to wake in the morning. Sleep issues of one member of the family will usually impact the entire family. When an infant, toddler or older child is not sleeping well, usually mom and dad also do not get as much quality sleep as they need. Siblings might also suffer. Problems sleeping can occur in all age children. Problems that occur are sleeping too little or too much, difficulty in falling asleep or waking up, and waking during the night. Lack of quality sleep can result in cranky overtired children (and adults), poor schoolwork and reduced work efficiency. Sleep problems in children can generally be easily cured. In the sections below we will offer some ideas to improve everyone's sleep.


The Sleeping Sheep

The Sleeping Sheep is very soothing to many infants. The sheep, which can be attached to crib, provides soothing sounds to help calm baby and help lull them to sleep. A sound box features four sounds to choose from including the most popular Mother's Heartbeat and Ocean Waves.

How Much Sleep is Enough

Parents of infants and young children often wonder if their child is getting enough sleep. Parents of older children, particularly teenagers, wonder if their child is sleeping too much. How much sleep do children need? Each child is an individual and needs will vary but there are certain guidelines. First take a look at your child and determine if they are well rested and have energy. If they seem fine chances are they are getting the sleep they need. If your child is overly cranky at day's end, falling asleep at the dinner table or you have to really fight to get them out of bed in the morning chances are they might need more sleep.

A simple guideline is that children over ten will need about 10 hours sleep and children ages six-ten need about 11-12 hours of sleep. Preschoolers and kindergartners (ages 4-6) generally need about 10-12 hours of sleep at night. Some preschoolers will still nap others will not. The preschooler that does not nap might benefit from some quiet rest time during the day or they will simply make it up at night. Children aged one to three will usually need about 10-13 hours of sleep at night plus a nap during day. Infants ages six months to a year sleep about 11 hours at night and 3 hours during day. Under six months of age they will sleep 16-20 hours a day.

Easing Bedtime Battles or Bedtime routine

Parents frequently ask how they can win the bedtime battle. It is better to think of it as easing the bedtime routine. A quieter less stressful bedtime ritual will greatly increase the quality of everyone's sleep. It is important to set a routine and to allow your child some choices. First you, the adult determine the bedtime. Decide if the child will have a bath or shower. Some children will find baths relaxing but note that some toddlers or children with sensory issues might not. If your child is not relaxed by a bath, do bath or shower before dinner or in morning. Decide if you will allow the television to be on and then you determine what shows will be watched. Carefully decide if the show is not only appropriate for children but appropriate for bedtime. Shows can affect a child's dreams, and even cartoons or the evening news are not always a good idea.

Comfortable and relaxed are critical for a good night's sleep.

Your child should be able to choose their pajamas. If your child is not comfortable in their pajamas they may not sleep well so be sure to read Pajama & Sleep to find out about the impact of pajamas on sleep. Also see Girls Pajamas and Pajamas for Boys. Let them select a book to be read. If you have already read to your child perhaps they might choose to have you tell them a story or you can just talk. If they like, let them choose a stuffed animal or soft toy to sleep with. Some children will sleep with multiple toys. Many children like night light and even a radio playing low music. There are also sound machines or white noise machines. These are similar to the Sleepy Sheep shown towards top of this page. Radios and white noise machines also help to soothe the child who wakes easily at night. By masking other noises they might sleep better. If your child has trouble falling asleep try adjustments to the bedtime ritual. Examine events during the day as well as the time just before bedtime. If a child continues to have problems sleeping be sure to rule out a medical reason by consulting your pediatrician.

Sheets and bedding can also affect a child's sleep, please see Linens for more on choosing sheets for your child's bed. Be sure pillows are comfortable.

Check that the bedroom temperature is conducive to sleep, not too cold or hot. Normally around 68 is good for sleep.

A small snack before bedtime is also helpful to prevent waking due to hunger. Some good snacks for bedtime are cheese and crackers, apple with peanut butter or cookies and milk.

Spend some quality quiet time with your child before bedtime. They are more likely to drift off into peaceful slumber if they are relaxed and comforted. The time before sleep is important. Have a ritual but keep it simple. Keep it calm and keep it pleasant. Bedtime rituals help make bedtime more relaxed. Take time to tell your child they are safe and loved. Some children even those 7 or older are reassured to know you are close by even when they are asleep, reassured to know you check on them and can hear them if they call. An intercom at night accomplishes this nicely. A final "goodnight, I love you" over the intercom is very reassuring.