Children and Sleep
Sleep is a very important factor in all of our lives. Sleep is the fuel to give us the energy to function each day.
Sleep is the time when our children grow. Essential brain development takes place during the REM (rapid eye movement) stage of sleep when our brains are processing the events of the day.
Children have different sleeping requirements depending on their age.
Average hours of sleep for different ages are as follows:
- . A newborn requires 16 - 19 hours per day
- . A 3-12 month old requires approx 14 hours per day
- . A child between 1-2 years requires 10-12 hours a day
- . A child between 2-3 years requires 9-12 hours a day
Up to the age of 3 years many children will sleep in the afternoon for an hour as part of their daily quota. Beyond 3 years it is unlikely that a child will sleep during the day.
Sleep deprived children and parents can be restless, unable to concentrate and irritable. It is essential therefore that we and our children enjoy healthy sleep on a regular basis.
Bedtime Routines Work
The earlier we introduce bedtime routines into our children's lives the better. This routine will set your child's expectations and soon they will look forward to the evening routine. A good bedtime routine is a bath, followed by a story with a drink and then a goodnight kiss. Try to make your child go to sleep without you in the room as this will help them to put themselves back to sleep if and when they wake in the night. The process of bath time and a story helps your child to unwind and relax ready for sleeping.
Night Time Problems
Children may suffer from strange occurrences in the night that affect their sleep; these include sleep walking, sleep talking and night terrors. These sleep-disturbing episodes are common in younger children and gradually stop as your child gets older. Night terrors are extreme nightmares; your child will normally be asleep but wide eyed as if awake. Comfort your child reassuring them it is only a dream and wait for them to fall back to sleep.
Waking For No Reason
If your young toddler repeatedly wakes in the night for no apparent reason then try some of the following ideas to break the habit:
- . If your toddler cries in his room then visit him/her to check they are ok and comfort them with a kiss and a goodnight
- . If your toddler comes to your room/bed then immediately return them to their room and put them back in their own bed
- . Try to avoid stimulating them with conversation, whisper quietly and let them know it is still night time and therefore time to sleep
(You may need to follow these routine many times over a period of a few nights before breaking the waking habit.)
When It's Time to Wake Up
Give your toddler a visual signal that it is time to get up. A bedside light on a timer or an alarm clock will indicate to your toddler the time to come to your room.