Best ways to help children fall asleep

It seems strange that despite of the fact that kids require much more sleep than adults do, many kids resist going to sleep with every fiber in their body.

Why is that? Why do we have to invent hundreds of different stories to get them to bed?

The reasons are different from one child to another, but the most common themes, from our experience, are the following: feeling excluded from the ongoing family activity (the rest of the family will continue to have fun and she/he will miss it), anxiety (monsters under the bed or other scary story she/he can be frighten of), the lack of physical activities during the day, the continuous connection to the stimulants (social media, TV, computer games, that won’t allow the brain to enter the relaxation mode).

But how much should sleep our child?

1 to 4 weeks old - Newborns sleep approximately 16 -17 hours a day with periods of wakefulness lasting 1 -3 hours. However, most newborns have not developed a night/day sleep cycle, so their periods of sleep and wakefulness can vary in all hours of the day. Most parents will have to adjust their own sleep schedules to accommodate newborns.

1 to 4 months old - Babies of this age still tend to sleep about the same amount of hours, but their night/day sleep cycles begin to kick in, allowing them to sleep longer at night, although they still wake for feedings and changes.

4 months to 1 year - Babies of this age still require between 14 -15 hours of sleep everyday. However, many of them are able to sleep through most of the night, and take up to 3 naps during the day and evening. During this period, it is important to really begin to establish healthy sleep habits for your child.

1 to 3 years - Most toddlers need about 12 - 14 hours of sleep, but often get less due to the schedules of parents and older children in the house. They will more than likely lose their early morning nap and early evening nap and tend to only take one nap a day.

3 to 6 years - Approximately 11 - 12 hours of sleep. Younger children of this group may still require a short nap during the day, but the need to nap usually diminishes by the time they enter the first grade.

7 to 12 years - Children of these age groups tend to need about 10 -12 hours of nightly sleep, but often only get about 9 -10 hours.

13 to 18 years - Teens of this age require about 8 - 10 hours of sleep, but rarely get the full amount they need. The demands of schoolwork, after school programs and activities often cut into their nightly sleep. Most teens reports getting about 6 - 8 hours of sleep.

SO, what should do to help our children fall asleep easier? From setting strict bedtimes to avoiding sugary foods, here are five top tips for helping children to go to sleep at night, according to the experts:

Set an individualized bedtime. School-age children need between 9 and 11 hours of sleep each night, but there’s a lot of variability in sleep needs and patterns. Most kids have patterns that don’t change much, no matter what you do. An early riser will still get up early even if you put them to bed later, and a night owl won’t usually fall asleep until their body is ready. Know how much sleep your child needs to wake up refreshed and set an appropriate bedtime.

With 1 hour before bedtime, turn off electronics. Remove televisions, tablet, computers, games, and other electronic devices from their rooms. These devices promote wakefulness through both stimulating content as well as the light emitting from them, which mimics daylight and tricks the brain into thinking it needs to stay awake. Electronics should be turned off or taken away at least an hour before bedtime. Allowing TV's and computers in their rooms provides them with possible distractions that you won't be able to control once you're out of the room.

Create a consistent bedtime routine. Routines are especially important for infants, toddlers and preschoolers. Doing specific things before bed, such as a bath or story time, signal to your child what’s coming next. Make bedtime a priority. A predictable, calming bedtime routine is key to a good night's sleep. You might give your child a bath and read stories. Talk about the day. Play soothing bedtime music. Then tuck your child into bed drowsy but awake and say good night. Once you settle on a routine, follow it every night. This will help your child know what to expect and establish healthy sleep patterns.

Slow down the whole family activity. If your child can hear talking, laughing or sounds from electronics, it's easy to see how he or she would want to stay up. To ease the transition to bedtime, turn off or put away electronics and keep things quiet around bedtime. Sleep might be more appealing if everyone slows down before bedtime.

Avoid feeding your child big meals close to bedtime, and don't give her anything containing caffeine less than six hours before bedtime.

Keep it cool. Your child’s sleep cycle isn’t just dependent on light (or the lack thereof). It’s also sensitive to temperature. Melatonin levels help to regulate the drop of internal body temperature needed to sleep, but you can help regulate the external temperature. Don’t bundle your child up too much or set the heat too high; typical room temperature or a little cooler is better to promote deep sleep.

Help your child feel secure, provide protection from fears. To encourage your child to fall asleep alone, help him or her feel secure. Start with a calming bedtime routine. Then offer a comfort object, such as a favorite stuffed animal or a weighted blanket.

Weighted blankets are one of the latest sleep trends among adults and kids for snagging some extra Zzzs. The blanket’s pressure is evenly distributed across your body, which some research suggests can provide anxiety and stress relief for those with sleep problems. The feeling of a weighted blanket is similar to that of being hugged or held, which is why weighted blankets have been used for years in occupational therapy, particularly for kids with autism. If your kid or teen is suffering from stress, anxiety or insomnia, a weighted blanket could be a natural way to help them sleep better.


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