It seems like every household with children struggles with bedtimes as school starts in the fall. The sun sets late. Kids used to staying up late and sleeping late suddenly have to go to bed earlier and have trouble falling asleep.
But the struggle is well worth the effort. "Researchers at the University of Helsinki, Finland, monitored the sleep patterns of several hundred children using small wrist devices called actigraphs. They found that perfectly healthy 7-8 year-old kids who got less than 7.7 hours per night of sleep had increased behavioral problems—such as aggression, an inability to concentrate, and a lack of focus—all symptoms common in children with ADHD." (For a great article about this check out http://www.education.com/magazine/article/sleep_adhd/)
One mom realized that her efforts to get her kids in bed earlier were failing. She tried room darkening blinds but even a dark room didn't help. But then she hit upon a plan. The week before school started she planned a series of very full days that demanded early rising. It seemed easier to wake her kids up then to get them to go to sleep. She woke them up 2 hours earlier then they'd been rising. She involved her friends and her husband in planning high levels of physical activity all day long. Without telling any of the kids that she was doing so, she quietly got them into a healthy pattern for the coming school schedule.
So how much sleep do kids need? Of course children do vary but most parents UNDERestimate how much children need. "School aged children average only 9.5 hours of sleep per night, instead of the 10-11 hours experts recommend. Preschoolers average 10.4 hours, even though it’s recommended that they sleep as much as 2 ½ hours more each night."
Chidren are getting a full one hour less of sleep then they did 30 years ago. Tired adults might get act groggy and feel sluggish but tired children tend to do the opposite—instead of slowing down, they speed up!
Sleep takes practice. A child with cjhallenging sleep habits can get better at sleeping by practicing better habits but they need consistency and an adult who won't back down.
So where does Love and Logic come in? If your child complains about your efforts to help them have better sleep habits lead with empathy.
C: "I don't want to go to bed:
P: "It's hard to go to be early." (Said with empathy)
P: Do you want to sleep in pjs or undies? Covers or no covers? Fan on or fan off?
Don't engage in arguments. Find a simple repetitive phrase like "I know." that can be said with empathy as your child complains that they hate going to bed.
C: "I'm not tired!" P: "I know."
C: "It's too early! P: "I know."
C: "You get to stay up. It's not fair." P: "I know"
Healthy Sleep Habits Happy Child, Mark Weissbluth, M.D.