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You're Children And Their Bedtime

Apr 24, 2008
Sleep problems are common among young children and are a major cause of frustration for one in five families.

Children will often try to stay awake even when they're tired because they are naturally curious and don't want to miss out on any excitement. However, it is possible to get them to sleep regularly through the night. Often a simple change to their bedtime routine is all that is required - along with plenty of patience!

What time should children go to bed?

Children vary in how active they are and how much sleep they need, so what is 'normal' for one child may not be the same for another child of the same age. As a rough guide, a newborn baby needs around 16-19 hours of sleep a day. Between 6 and 12 months, your baby typically sleeps for 13-15 hours (five of which are during the day). 3-5 year-olds need 10-12 hours sleep, while schoolchildren are usually refreshed after 10 hours in bed.

Because children and families have differing needs and lifestyles, there is no 'ideal' bedtime. It's up to you to decide what time your child should go to bed. However if your child goes to nursery or school, you need to take into account what time they need to get up and how long it takes them to get ready in the morning. So for example, if your child needs to be up and out of bed by 7am, a bedtime of 8pm would be appropriate. The most important thing is to make sure that your child is getting enough sleep to feel well rested and full of energy for the day ahead. Once you've decided on a bedtime, try to stick to it consistently as far as possible. This helps your child to establish regular sleep habits.

Tips to help your child sleep well

* Your child should always sleep in the same bedroom, which should be quiet, well ventilated, and dimly lit. Don't allow them to fall asleep in front of the TV and then carry them up to bed, as this can be disorientating if they wake in the night to find themselves in a different place.

* Make sure the size and height of the bed are appropriate for your child's age. The mattress should be firm but comfortable, and the bedding should be of the right thickness so your child doesn't wake up too hot or cold in the night.

* Establishing regular bedtime rituals will help your child wind down and prepare for bed. A warm drink and a bath will aid relaxation after an active day. The bedtime routine should last around 20 minutes or longer if your child needs more time to calm down.

* Nearly two-thirds of parents in the UK read their children a bedtime story. As well as helping develop your child's literacy skills, it also helps them settle down to sleep.

* Avoid over-stimulating activities such as computer games, running about outside, rough play, or exciting TV programmes for at least an hour before bedtime.

* If your child has a favourite toy or blanket, encourage them to take it to bed (but don't force them to sleep with it). This can be a source of comfort to your child and can help them to fall asleep.

* Don't give your child any reason to get out of bed unnecessarily. Make sure they have a drink of water within reach and easy access to the toilet.

* Nightmares can be very frightening for young children. If your child wakes from a nightmare, reassure them in a calming voice. Explain they were having a bad dream and encourage them to talk about their fears. If your child is sensitive by nature, avoid exposing them to scary films or books.

* Try not to lose your temper if your child is naughty at bedtime. The bedtime routine should be calm and create positive feelings, as a good mood is more likely to lead to good sleep for your child.
About the Author
Leigh A. Matelas is a freelance writer living in the UK. She regularly contributes articles for Taurus Beds, a leading Bed Shop in London.
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