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Getting children into a healthy sleep routine

As educators, we often hear complaints both by parents and children that their children are not getting enough sleep at night. Either they go to bed too late or are unable to fall asleep. This often results in children arriving school feeling tired, sometimes sick and also with diminished energy which impacts their academic performance.

Therefore, we’d like to pass on some tips which we felt could be useful to you in helping your children to create good and healthy sleep habits which will enable them to succeed in school.

According to http://www.sleepforkids.org/html/practices.html

Children age 5-12 require an average of 10-11 hours of sleep. The benefits include the establishment of lifetime sleep and health habits, yet there are many impediments to developing those habits and some of them could be related to the use of electronic devices, television viewing, the wrong food and drink or even an undetected medical problem.

Here are some important tips which are listed on the site:

  1. Introduce healthy sleep habits, disease prevention and health promotion
  2. Continue to emphasize the need for a regular and consistent sleep schedule and bedtime routine
  3. The child’s bedroom should be conducive to sleep: dark, cool and quiet. TV’s and computers should be off and out of the bedroom
  4. Set limits
  5. Avoid caffeine
  6. Watch for signs of chronic difficulty sleeping, loud snoring, difficulty breathing, unusual nighttime awakenings and frequent daytime sleepiness.

Talk to your doctor if you observe any of the following symptoms:

  • A child is having problems breathing or breathing is noisy
  • A child snores, especially if the snoring is loud
  • Unusual nighttime awakenings
  • Difficulty falling asleep and maintaining sleep, especially if you see daytime sleepiness and/or behavioral problems

A sleep deprived child is also more likely to exhibit behavioral problems, and this can impact their academic studies overall.  Certainly a child who is tired has less of an attention span, and this is often noticed by the teacher.

Setting a regular, nightly schedule is one of the most important things a parent can do to help their child.  Sticking to it is paramount.  Here are some ways to begin this process per https://www.webmd.com/parenting/raising-fit-kids/recharge/bedtime-routine-tips#1

1. Make sleep a family priority

Set regular go-to-bed and wake-up times for the entire family and be sure to follow them — even on weekends. You can tell that children are getting enough sleep when they fall asleep within 15 to 30 minutes of going to bed, wake up easily in the morning, and don’t nod off during the day.

2. Deal with sleep troubles

Signs of sleep struggles include trouble falling asleep, waking up at night, snoring, stalling and resisting going to bed, having trouble breathing during sleep, and loud or heavy breathing while sleeping. You might notice problems in daytime behavior, as well. If your child seems overtired, sleepy, or cranky during the day, tell their doctor.

3. Work as a team

It’s important to discuss and agree on a sleep strategy for your child with your spouse beforehand and work together as a team to carry it out consistently. Otherwise, you can’t expect your child to learn or change her behavior.

If you are starting a new sleep routine for your child, make them part of the team by explaining the new plan to them if they are old enough to understand. For a young child, try using a picture chart to help your child learn the new routine, showing actions like changing clothes, brushing teeth, and reading a book.

4. Routine, routine, routine.

Kids love it, they thrive on it, and it works. One study found that a consistent nighttime routine improved sleep in children who had mild to moderate sleep problems. It helps your child learn to be sleepy, just like reading in bed often puts adults to sleep. It can also make bedtime a special time. That will help your child associate the bedroom with good feelings and give them a sense of security and control. There is no single routine that’s right for everyone, but in general, yours should include all the things that your child needs to do before going to sleep, including brushing teeth, washing up, putting on PJs, and having a snack or drink of water. Your child may want to read a book with you, talk about the day, or hear a story. Whatever you choose to do, keep the routine short (30 minutes or less, not including a bath) and be firm about ending it when it’s time to sleep.

5. Bedtime snacks

Children may need more than three meals a day to keep them going, so a small snack before bedtime can help their bodies stay fueled through the night. Healthy options include whole-grain cereal with milk, graham crackers, or a piece of fruit. Avoid large snacks too close to bed, especially with older kids, because a full stomach can interfere with sleep.

6. Dress and room temperature

Everyone sleeps better in a room that is cool but not cold. A rule of thumb is to dress your child basically as you dress yourself, keeping in mind that very young children often kick off the covers at night and can’t cover themselves.

7. Sleep environment

Make sure the bedroom is dark and quiet and the noise level in the house is low. If your child does not like a totally dark room, turn on a small night light, or leave the hall light on and the door to the bedroom open.

8. Security object

Bedtime means separation, and that can be easier for kids with a personal object, like a doll, teddy bear, or blanket. It can provide a sense of security and control that comforts and reassures your child before she falls asleep.

9. One last thing.

Kids will always ask for that one last thing — hugs, a drink of water, a trip to the bathroom, just one more book. Do your best to head off these requests by making them part of the bedtime routine.  And let your child know that once they are in bed, they have to stay in bed.

If these tips are exercised with regularity, the problem of sleep deprivation should subside unless there is a medical issue present, in which case, you are recommended to see a doctor and explore what problems may exist and how to best deal with them.

We hope that this has been helpful in getting your child the needed sleep they require so that they can function at their best and feel good each day.

This article originally appeared on Makor HaTikvah, and reposted with permission.

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Cookie Schwaeber-Issan
Cookie is the Managing Director and Donor Support Coordinator, Makor HaTikvah Messianic Day School

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