The most hated time for many kids, bedtime, may be tough to enforce, manage, or make consistent.
Most parents know how important sleep is for school and social behavior, but are guilty of sometimes giving-in. Child professionals who specialize in sleep say parents need to get a sleep plan in place and stick to it.
Kendra Moyses, a senior educator in child and family development knows bedtime is tough. She says it doesn’t help that when kids age their hormones help to shift sleep cycles to program our brain to stay up even later.
“So the routines that we have for school early in the morning sometimes don’t jive with that. So what we have to do as parents and adults are to make sure they are getting enough sleep.”
The recommended amount of sleep from the National Sleep Foundation for kids 3 to 5 years old is 10 to 13 hours of sleep, kids 6 to 13 years of age need 9 to 11 hours, and those between 14 and 25 need 8 to 10 hours.
Moyses says you must start a bedtime routine once you know how many hours are needed. The routine will vary from family to family, but should not shift on what’s scheduled.
For example, find a consistent start time for your nightly routine. Include low-energy activities like talking about the day, reading, bathing, or brushing teeth. Finally, pinpoint the time when your child should be under the covers with the lights turned off.
Child development specialist Dr. Holly Brophy-Herb says you can test the success of your bedtime routine by looking for certain clues.
“If a parent were to notice a child getting sleepy during the day, or start to nod off at dinner time for young children, or a teacher calls and mentions the child is acting differently or not focused. Those may be cues that the child may not be getting enough sleep and you need to back up that sleep time.”
Problems your child will likely suffer from when not getting enough sleep include: loss of memory, motor functions, crankiness, stress, and less patience.
Plus, according to Brophy-Herb, a bedtime routine can also carry a lot of emotional meaning to children.
“It also helps children feel loved, which is part of how they feel in the family and that feeling stays with them throughout the day and so for young children bedtime routines can not only help them fall asleep but also become rich emotional fuel about their days.”
Also, technology is a huge impediment to solid sleep for children. It’s everywhere and connected to almost everything, including us, and so experts say parents need to create tech free zones.
“We would recommend their bedrooms is one of those places”, says Moyses “the light that the technology emits with those blue light rays actually mess with the body’s way to produce melatonin and so the longer we stay on devices, the more we are awake and the more your sleep cycle gets messed up.”
So parents, stop all technology an hour before bedtime to give both body and eyes time to relax and start melatonin production.