Sleep is crucial for all, but for children it really is imperative to get those zzzs in. As babies we just want to rock them to sleep, and share that special time bonding. That is great for a while, but there comes a time when your kiddo needs to be able to get to sleep on his or her own. And, it may be sooner rather than later that this should be happening.
According to a new Australian study, the inability to self-soothe to sleep may result in how they will adjust to school, creating stress and discipline problems. Researchers found that one in three children who had had sleeping problems from birth to five, had increased risk of emotional and behavioral issues at school and also put them at risk for attention deficit disorders. The lead researcher said children characterized as having escalated sleep problems in early childhood were associated with higher teacher-reported hyperactivity, poorer classroom self-regulation, and emotional outbursts.
As parents and grandparents we need to become more aware of good sleep hygiene practices for our entire family. Initiating these practices earlier in life is best, but it's never too late to make adjustments.
What are some things we can do?
Avoid lying with your children in the bed: It's important for them to learn the skill of getting themselves to sleep. Consistency will be key. Once you determine this is what you will do stick with it. If you had already started out lying with your child until they went to sleep, you may face some battles at first.
Set up a scheduled sleep schedule: You can allow them to sleep a little more on weekends, but try to stick to a routine. This is imperative. Children, just like adults, need a regime. Our bodies crave a schedule. When we get out of that routine, it affects our health and concentration.
Avoid TV for the last two hours prior to bed: This is a hard one, but extremely important. Research has shown that light from the TV screen can interfere with melatonin production, which aides in sleep. Find other ways to fill that time. Reading books together is a great way to spend time together before bed.
Keep things calm before bed: Stress can interrupt sleep. Avoid any activities that could make your child excited. Begin winding down an hour or so prior to the scheduled bedtime. You can also begin dimming the lights and encourage everyone to be quieter. These will all signal it is time to get ready for a peaceful night.
Have the right mattress in place: Choose a quality mattress, pillow, and bedding. Even as adults, we need to stress the importance of these simple choices. As your child moves from a crib to a big kid bed, make sure your mattress is the right comfort level. Something too hard or too soft could affect a good night's rest.
Cool temperature is best: Your child's body temperature can impair sleeping. Keep it cool and comfortable.
Note: The study featured was associated with the study called Growing up in Australia: The Longitudinal Study of Australian Children (LSAC). Dr Williams' research titled Early childhood profiles of sleep problems and self-regulation predict later school adjustment was published in the British Journal of Educational Psychology.