Sleep is important at any age, but especially for young children. There seems to be, however, one major lurking problem with this seemingly simple principle: children never quite want to go to sleep. What is one to do?
I won’t pretend for a second that I’m an expert on this type of thing, but after having a younger sister and not being the age where I forget what it’s like being a kid, I think I can lend a word or two of advice (at least for children 6-12, who should be sleeping 10-12 hours a night ).
Number 1. Trick Us
Yes, tricks are the best.
Whether it be pretending you’re tired – the old “Yawn! I could just snuggle up and go to sleep right about now” line – or hanging out in bed about a half hour before you want them in bed, it usually works. The main idea here is to make it seem like they aren’t doing something they don’t want to do.
Number 2. Have a Wind Down Process
Best established early on, a wind down process or routine before bed always helps the body. Not only will it help set off physiological triggers, but it encourages healthy sleeping habits. Be sure to be finished with dinner an hour or so before bed time, giving some time to sit and read or talk before brushing up, washing one’s face, and getting into bedtime wear.
Number 3. Combat the “I’m not Tired” Rhetoric
Of course, there is always going to be that instance where your child just “isn’t tired.” So what do you do?
My Dad used to play guitar, and after 15-20 minutes, I was asleep – talk about inducing tiredness. If you don’t play music, consider putting on some mellow music – maybe some of your acoustic favorite or mellow classical pieces.
Alternatively, consider employing the age-old method of bedtime stories. Get a good chapter book or two you can work on over the course of a month or so. Usually, within 20-30 minutes, kids often fall asleep or will be excited to dream about whatever it was they heard being read.
Finally, I suggest elaborating on the fantasy world of “Dream Land.” Bear with me here – dream land is that imaginary place you go to when you sleep. It’s the place you can do anything, the place you can meet anyone. You can dance on stars, climb the tallest mountains, and dive into the deepest oceans, and you’ll always be safe. This is usually better for younger kids, but it encourages being excited about sleep.
Number 4. Schedule a Normal Bedtime
Another good strategy for getting kids to bed on time is be sure you have a set time for them to get to bed! Having a solid schedule helps keep bodies (and minds) on schedule. In tandem with this regular schedule, be sure to remind the little ones a half hour before hand, as well as 10 minutes prior.
Number 5. Be Conscious of the Body Sleeps
Our bodies are both sensitive to light and temperature. That being so, make sure your child’s room is dark as well as cool at night. Our circadian rhythms (body clocks) respond better to cool environments, increasing the time of REM sleep (or light sleep that occurs 90 minutes after the onset of sleep and throughout the sleep cycle).
In addition to creating a conducive environment for sleep, make sure the body is ready to sleep. Getting your kids to exercise (both mentally and physically) throughout the day will help prep the body for rest at night. Ideally, school should be satisfying both requirement, but a nice evening bike ride is always nice.
Hopefully, these tips will get the kids to sleep. But, like I said before, I’m definitely not a pro. I wholeheartedly encourage you to add your own tips!