Top Ten Tips For Keeping Important Sleep Routines
A survey of parents has revealed that the clocks changing is one of the top three most common reasons for disrupting a child’s bedtime routine.
Also featuring high on the list were holidays and friends staying over, so the upcoming half term week with a clock change at the end, is likely to create a major challenge for the 7 out of ten parents who admit they find a good routine hard to stick to!
Mandy Gurney, Founder of Millpond, the leading UK sleep clinic, comments, "Any changes like losing or gaining an extra hour will upset a routine and this is fine if your child or baby adapts easily, but for some it can have a profound and lasting effect. If you think your child is likely to be affected there are things you can do to keep their body clock on track."
The Most Common Things That Disturb a Bedtime Routine are:
Coming back late from an outing or visiting friends
Friends staying over
Family upset or illness
Something on TV the kids want to watch
Eating the wrong food too close to bedtime
Too much homework
Here are the top ten tips to help keep that sleep routine:
Tip 1 - How to prevent your children’s sleep problems when the clocks changeTo prevent sleep problems and help your little ones make the change with ease, start the process two weeks before the clocks change. Delay the start of your child’s bedtime routine and settle them to sleep 15 minutes later than usual.
You should maintain this new time for the next 3 to 4 nights.
Then move the bedtime routine and sleep time another 15 minutes later and maintain this time for 3 to 4 nights.
Continue this process until your little one is asleep an hour later.
It can take a few days for them to start waking later in the morning as their body clocks slowly adjust to the new times.
If your child is having day time naps you will need to adjust these in the same way, along with meal and milk times.
Tip 2 - Have a regular sleep-wake up timeEncourage a regular sleep-wake schedule, especially a regular time of getting up in the morning with no more than plus or minus one hour deviation from day to day including the weekends. A clock that allows children learn to do this on their own can help.
Tip 3 – Create a healthy sleep environmentLight is one of the biggest influences on our sleep. A dark room is invaluable to promote sleep, however if your child is afraid of the dark or has to get up in the night, a night light is useful to make them feel secure. Bedroom temperature and constant noise can also affect sleep.
Tip 4 – Have relaxation timeHave a wind-down time prior to sleep. You should encourage your child to change their activities to something relaxing and non stressful in the half hour or so before bedtime e.g. turn off the TV and computer and read or listen to a story tape.
Tip 5 - Stimulus control - "Go to bed"For many children "go to bed" may no longer mean "go to sleep", but rather "go to your bedroom to amuse yourself". Make bedtime mean sleep time. This may mean removing all stimuli not associated with sleep such as toys, TV and computer from the bedroom.
Tip 6 – Have A focused bedtime routineAim to carry out the same series of steps every night, about 30 minutes before your child goes to bed:
A warm relaxing bath lasting about 10 minutes, a pre-bed bath should not be a play time.
Go straight from the bathroom into the bedroom- do not go back into the living area.
Dim the lights- this will help with the production of the sleep hormone melatonin.
Have 1 to 2 stories.
Say good night and leave the bedroom.
Your child should be asleep about 15 minutes later.
Tip 7 – Set clear boundariesHave clear and consistent boundaries at bedtime, when you say 2 stories mean 2 stories, if your child knows what to expect they are less likely to argue.
Lack of setting limits at bedtime can lead to delayed bedtimes and bedtime battles.
Tip 8 – A Good DietAvoid caffeine close to bedtime as it can profoundly disrupt night time sleep in some people. A bedtime snack of foods that contain an amino acid tryptophan, is thought to make some people drowsy e.g. banana, warm milk, oat biscuit, whole grain cereal.
Tip 9 - Regular exerciseIf possible encourage regular periods of exercise 20 -30 minutes three or four times a week. Research has shown increased physical exercise promotes sleep; however it should not be carried out within 3 hours of bedtime.
Tip 10 – Don’t forget the PraiseReward children with praise every morning when they have kept to the "rules".
A special trip out or small reward will do wonders do encourage them to keep going.