Do we realise the importance of sleep for our children and are we guilty of jeopardising our children’s education and learning by making them mould to our routine?
I recently read an article on what bedtimes you should abide by with children of different ages. I think most parents would be surprised to know that bedtime can start as early as 7pm. I wonder how many children are going to bed at the suggested times. I certainly believe it makes a huge difference to our children if they get a good nights sleep. And I know as a child I was put off to bed at 7 and 7.30 until I was around 7 or 8 years old.
Getting enough sleep really affects your child’s concentration levels. I certainly know it affects my own concentration levels as an adult and you can imagine the amount of concentration it takes for a child to examine and absorb the little processes of life that they are continuously learning. It affects their behaviour in a major way too. A child that may not seem obviously tired but is displaying irrational behaviour or what we sometimes refer to as “bad behaviour” (though I hate that term) could be simply affected by lack of sleep. Its terrible to think that we blame the child for being badly behaved when in reality it can be our fault for not putting them to bed in time. I know many parents would say if they put their child down to sleep at 7pm they wouldn’t go to sleep but i’m sure like everything it takes time to change a routine. Of course the biggest culprit for stopping children sleeping is screens – TV, laptop, phone, games console. They all affect your childs ability to settle down enough to sleep and most parenting experts recommend 1 hour before bedtime as the cut off point for screentime. This time can be used for bathing, bedtime stories, playing a quiet game or some other form of relaxing activity – even eating. Which brings me to another point.
My mother in law says all the time, particularly in relation to infants and toddlers that the reason they don’t sleep or wake in the middle of the night or too early in the morning is because they are hungry. And I have to say in my experience that I have found this to be mostly true. Of course there is the odd time that we can blame teeth/illness but the majority of times my kids have woken in the middle of the night or too early in the morning I can link it to them not having eaten much of their tea the evening before. So I think its safe to say that my top tip to keep children sleeping for long periods is to fill them up! That would always be my first port of call since I’m a feeder! 🙂
I know early bedtimes don’t suit a lot of parents because they are working etc and some don’t be home until 6 or even 6.30pm. Then its the race to cook dinner (keeping the kids occupied with the TV) and maybe even do homework. Its certainly not possible to fit all in with a 7 or 8pm bedtime particularly as you want to have some quality time too and not have their whole evening time experience listening to “would you sit down and concentrate on your homework”, “you have to eat all of your vegetables”, etc., etc. I’m speaking from my own experience here! I know I hate coming in from work and practically putting them straight to bed. I do feel terribly guilty but I’m lucky that I don’t work full time and I console myself with the fact that I’ll have all day tomorrow or the next day to spend with them. And they need sufficient sleep to make the best of that quality time.
The more I read on the topic of childrens sleep the more I realise the importance of it for their social, emotional and cognitive development. I think as a society living in a rat race and being so busy ourselves as parents, we have changed the norms in relation to bedtime and some of us have the kids running round at 10 and 11 o’clock at night. Some in the mistaken belief that if they go to bed late they’ll sleep later in the morning and give Mammy and Daddy a lie in! Tried and tested and failed!! And surely it has to have some bearing on the amount of behaviour disorders diagnosed. I’m not saying that sleep will cure any of these but surely along with diet changes and some environmental changes it would be a big help in the day to day management of these illnesses.
Let me know your thoughts please!