Kids and Sleep: Solving the Bedtime Battles


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Every parent goes through it at one time or another — the bedtime battle. Kids are pros at stall tactics to avoid going to sleep. "I want a glass of water!" "There's a monster in the closet!" or "Can I just have one more story, please?" Or if you get them to sleep, they don't stay in bed, instead they get up and down numerous times at night to come in your room.

When your child won't go to bed at a decent hour or won't stay asleep, it not only creates tired parents and a cranky child, but it affects every aspect of your child's daytime functioning. Too little sleep in young children affects their mood, their behavior and their cognitive abilities for school, including attention-span, memory and problem-solving skills.

How much sleep does your child need?

Three- to five-year-olds need 11-13 hours of sleep per night.
Six- to 10-year-olds need 10-11 hours of sleep per night.
But how can you ensure they get the right amount?

Getting kids to sleep

Keep a strict schedule with the same bedtime and same wake-up time seven days a week, even on weekends. Studies show that younger children who go to bed before 9 p.m. exhibit better behavior than children who go to sleep later.

Establish a bedtime routine and follow it every night. This will help your child fall asleep and stay asleep easier. Suggestions include starting with a bath, snuggle time, discussing their day and reading time.

Eliminate TV, video games and computer time at least a half-hour to an hour before bedtime. Do not allow any electronics in the bedroom.

Cut out all caffeine for this age group.

If your child still naps during the day, make sure the nap is not affecting bedtime. Around ages 3-4, there may come a time when kids still need a nap during the day but it makes it harder for them to fall asleep at night at an early hour. You may need to adjust the nap schedule to help your child fall asleep at a decent hour at night. Move the nap up or shorten the length as kids get older.

Extra tactics for bedtime

Make a bedtime char that shows every part of the bedtime routine. For example, bath, pajamas, brushing teeth, bathroom, two books, kisses and hugs, and sleep. You can cut pictures out of a magazine or take pictures of your child doing these activities. Younger kids will look at the pictures. Older children may want to check off each activity.Create a "bedtime pass" — a small card such as an index card that your child can turn in for "one more thing" at bedtime. Start with one or two cards. Each time a child makes a request, she has to hand over a card to you. Once all the cards are turned in, no more requests and she has to stay in bed.

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