It’s a challenge to put kids to bed — even this is an understatement. With the presence of modernity in your home, like television, mobile devices, gaming apps, and internet, parents are struggling to keep their kids fall asleep on time.
Sleep is very important. It’s the time when your body rejuvenates and prepares for the next day. Kids need up to 14 hours of sleep depending on their ages. To help you get your kids to bed, Dr. Robert Lehman of Pediatric Affiliates of Hampton Roads, shares 10 ways for children to fall asleep fast.
Make a bedtime routine.
Sticking to a bedtime routine is paramount to getting a child to sleep. I suggest that parents write down all the activities that they like to do with the child for the two hours before bedtime (i.e. bath, reading time, play with toys, watch TV, etc). After writing these activities down, then categorize them from “most stimulating” to “least stimulating”.
After that, every night, progress from most to least stimulating so that the child gets the message early-on that bedtime is coming. The problem sometimes is that a parent, who works into the bedtime hour, comes home and wants to get in some “fun time” with the child before bed. The working parent now overstimulates the child and disrupts the usual bedtime routine. This sends a message to the child that there is no well-defined routine.
Making a bedtime ritualistic routine is the most important hint to getting children to sleep without medications. A child will learn that these are now the “new rules”.
Keep a sleep diary.
Try to collect sleep diaries for 2 weeks (day and night). These can be very helpful and many may be found on the web. These should be filled out in real-time and given to the physician to evaluate.
It’s all about timing.
Put children to bed in a drowsy state. Match the child’s bedtime with his/her natural sleep-onset time.
Set the bedroom ambience.
The bedroom is for sleeping-not for watching TV or playing with the iPad, iPhone, iPod, computer, laptop, XBox, PS-2, Nintendo, etc.
Don’t be manipulated.
Avoid intermittent unwanted reinforcements (e.g. getting into bed with parents). This rewards a child for doing the undesired action. Think of winning the lottery. Would you play it if you knew you would win every 10 times?
Be strict with eating time and bedtime.
Parents should not spend time at night checking on a child. Parents should ignore crying and tantrums. If parents just can’t bear to leave a child in the bed crying, then parents should minimize interactions when they are in the child’s room. The interaction should be reassuring, brief and boring to the child. No rewards should be offered to the child. Above all, do not feed a child in the bed if they wake up. Keep morning wake time constant.
Change bedtime schedule gradually.
“Bedtime Fading”, which is moving bedtime to earlier times by small increments (i.e. 15 mins) over successive nights until the pre-established bedtime goal is achieved, may be helpful.
Be cautious of “new” interactions.
Parents need to know that any new interactions that they implement will result to the child getting worse before they get better.
Implement a bedtime pass card.
Positive reinforcement and positive bedtime routines will certainly help. A bedtime pass card (“get out of jail” card) may be used only once at night and if not used, reward them.
Skip nappy time.
If child takes a nap during the day, you may need to extinguish this nap so that the child can be sleepy at night.
There may be many medical reasons for poor sleep in children (i.e. Hyperactivity, Mood Disorders, Medications, Metabolic Issues, Obstructive Sleep Apnea, Caffeine use). Some children may need to be referred to a pediatric ENT or a pediatric psychiatrist if unusual sleeping patterns are noticed.