Getting a Good Night’s Sleep

Sleep! I touched on this topic a while back in the Life Skills for Children A-Z series but I think it’s so important, I’m going to hit it again.

It’s pretty obvious to most that if we don’t get enough sleep we end up crabby and lack the va-va-voom necessary to function properly during the day.  Quite frankly, tiredness messes totally with our CANDo attitude and drains us of our kick-ass get-up and go-go juices.

Learning why and how to get a good night’s sleep is a vital life skill it’s our job as parents to pass on to our kids.  The truth of the matter is, if they don’t hit the sack at an appropriate time and in the appropriate way they are being exposed to potential:

  • impaired learning, memory and school performance.
  • behavioural problems, especially in children with ADHD
  • night terrors due to sleep deprivation
  • weight issues as levels of hormones that regulate satiety and hunger may alter and lead to overeating.

And all this is just while they’re kids.  As adults, they’ll suffer from lowered tolerance levels, reduced concentration, increased irritability and/or mega issues with impatience.

CANDo get-up and go-go needs energy and energy comes, among other things, from getting a good night’s sleep.

Teaching children to listen to their bodies and understand the need for sleep is a skill they’ll need to learn, so get down and start teaching them.

Here are a handful of CANDoable’s to get you moving in the right direction.

1 – Get in the Swing

Falling asleep isn’t something that just happens.  Ironically in fact, the more we try to get to sleep the more awake we feel as frustration starts kicking in.  The secret is in preparing a suitable routine that will enable your child to develop the habits needed to drop off when required – and stay dropped off.

First off, explain the importance of sleep to your child and agree to a routine.  The routine is only the start however, once you’ve got it you and your child need to give those Self-Discipline Imps a good ol’ kick up the bum to make sure you and they stick to it.

2 – How Much is Enough

Each child is different however as a good example, your average 8 year old should be getting a minimum of 10 hours sleep a night, rising to about 9 hours for a ten year old.  I’m not going to list hours required for each age group here as this info’s readily available for anyone with access to the internet.  Once you’ve worked out how much your kid should be getting, take their usual wake-up time and work back.  You’ll end up with a set bedtime for when they should be ASLEEP in bed, not just going to bed – believe me the difference is huge-ola.

3 – Keep it Regular

Keep to this bedtime every night and try not to break the routine, i.e., at the weekends.  If they chop and change their times at the weekend, they’re more likely to suffer from something akin to “jet lag” come monday morning.  If Temptation starts laying on the charm, be firm and poke that tongue out at him, just don’t give in.  If you or your child do want to change the bedtime, make small changes over a period of time, e.g. 15 minutes earlier, progressively over a few days, that way the body adjusts more easily.

4 – Wake Up Even When you Don’t Have Too!

If they’re getting enough sleep, they should wake up naturally.  If you’re always there having to chivvy them out of bed, they need to be hitting the sack a little earlier.

5 – Keep it Light

Help them to understand and make use of their body’s naturally sleep cycle.  Have them open their eyes and expose themselves to as much daylight as possible first thing and this will help with them wake up.

6 – Keep it Dark

I know, I know!  I just said light and now I’m saying dark.  You need both but everything at the appropriate time.  Our bodies secrete a hormone called Melatonin which aids sleep.  The more we can boost production of Melatonin at night the easier it will be to fall and stay asleep. Have your child close the curtains and avoid bright lights.  Reduce exposure to the TV, computer or computer games an hour before bedtime to stimulate Melatonin production.

7 – Keep it Quiet

Keep the last hour before bedtime quiet.  Ban TV, computers, mobiles and all the modern day paraphernalia we don’t seem to be able to live without.  Once in bed (preferably at least 30 minutes before the ASLEEP time you’ve worked out), sit and read to them or have them read to themselves if they can or look through picture books if they can’t.  It’s also a good idea to allow your child to talk quietly about anything that’s on their mind, this way they’ll start winding down and relaxing, which is key to getting a good sleep.

8 – Check Out your Own Bedtime Routine

YOU may be the reason you’re child can’t drop off.  If there’s too much noise, hustle and bustle, your child’s obviously going to find it hard to drop off.  See if you can’t bring your own bedtime a little earlier or at least bring it down a notch activity-wise.  If you’re game enough to listen to your Honesty Imp, you’d admit you could probably do with going to bed a little earlier yourself.

9 – Belly Full (but NOT too Full!)

A small snack and glass of warm milk are ideal ways to ensure that thirst or hunger pangs aren’t keeping them awake but make sure they know to avoid eating too heavily or drinking excessively.

10 – Keep them Active

The propensity today is for kids to sit in front of the TV or a computer screen however, what they need is physical activity.  Kick them out in the garden, play a sport yourself with them or invite another child around to play with them (not computer games).  Get them active and they’ll be physically tired enough to help them sleep.

All these things are easy CANDoables that can be implemented more or less immediately but don’t introduce them arbitrarily or without discussion.  The idea is to teach your children the life skills they’ll need to make their own choices about appropriate evening routines at different stages of their lives.  Talk through each suggestion with them, listen to their ideas too and implement a routine together.

Helping your children to establish and stick to good evening routines is an ideal way to help them develop life skills such as self-control, self-discipline, time-keeping, resisting temptation and perseverance to name but a few.

How much sleep do your kids get a night? Are your children independent enough to know when enough sleep is enough and do the right thing? Everyone seems to like to hear how others are doing it so why not leave us a comment or send a CANDo email. 

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