- Family and Parenting
Bedtime Battles. How Sleep Can Change Your Child's Future!
Sleep Can Change Your Child's Future
It may sound dramatic, but not only is sufficient good sleep vital for your child's health and ability to function effectively from day to day, it can actually change who he becomes as an adult!
An improvement in behavior in the meantime, is the bonus! :)
On this page I'll share with you how your child's future is affected by sleep, and how to illiminate those bedtime battles. I have some tips on how to get your child to bed without the drama. ;)
How Sleep Can Change Your Child's Future Physically
Getting the full quota of sleep he needs, can affect who your child becomes as an adult. It can have an effect on his career success, personal relationships, and his financial security.
This may sound dramatic, but let me give some examples of how whether a child gets the full quota of sleep he needs each night, affects his future:
* Result 1: When a child is consistently getting the full amount of sleep he needs, he feels more energetic.
Effect: He has more energy to take part in, and do well in, sport and other physical activities.
Knock-on Effect: He develops a strong, healthy, active body, as well as higher self-esteem, and a sense of achievement.
Long-term Effect: This can change who he is - physically and emotionally. It can contribute to his health, to his feelings of self-worth and to his self-belief. - Affecting his Relationships and Career Success, amongst other things.
How Sleep Can Change Your Child's Future Career Success
* Result 2: Not having to wake your child for school means he's getting the full amount of sleep he needs, and he is then able to concentrate better and for longer periods of time.
Effect: Not only will he be able to learn and absorb more while in class, he will feel more alert and be able to participate more. He'll also be better able to remember what he's supposed to do and not do. He will find it easier to focus on instructions, and will therefore get better results, and be considered to be showing "good behaviour".
Knock-on Effect: Getting better results in school, will build that self-esteem, and lead to more confidence and a better self-image.
Long-term Effect: Aside from the academic benefits of doing well at school, the increased self-esteem and sense of achievement will be invaluable to him as an adult - it can affect his career, personal relationships and attitude to finances - to mention just a few.
How Sleep Can Affect Your Childs Future Relationships and Social Status
* Result 3: Consistently getting sufficient sleep will have a profound emotional effect on your child. He will feel happier, more tolerant, be less inclined to feel over-sensitive and irritable, and will benefit from a general, all-over feeling of security and stability - which is undermined when he is lacking in sleep.
Effect: He will get along better with others and be more inclined to do as he's asked. He will be able to enjoy his life more, and this can nurture a positive attitude and outlook.
Knock-on Effect: Because of his general feeling of happiness and tolerance, others will be more inclined to feel drawn to him and appreciate him. He will receive more positive attention from adults and peers.
Long-term Effect: As we know, our feelings shape and create our lives. The positive feelings resulting from sufficient sleep can change the life your child creates for himself. The boosted self-esteem can change who he becomes as an adult. He will naturally attract people who appreciate him - both personally and professionally. He will be a person people love spending time with, and his attitude to others will be more positive.
What I've mentioned here is only the tip of the iceberg.
In enabling your child to get the sleep he needs you will be giving him a priceless gift - a contribution to the best he can be.
The Science of Kids' Sleep - How it affects IQ scores, and risk of obesity!
I'm thrilled to have found this video, and I highly recommend it. After everything I've written on this subject, here are some extra points that are really worth considering. I've described how sleep affects the adult the child will become, in this video, listen to how sleep can make a difference of 2 grades to a child's IQ score, and to the connection between sleep deprivation and obesity, amongst other issues.
How Much Sleep is Enough?
Children need different amounts of sleep at different times - depending on whether they're going through a growth spurt, have a lot of emotional issues or new knowledge to process, or are worried or concerned about anything.
I believe that if you have to wake a child up for school, he is not getting enough sleep. Getting him to bed earlier will make a huge difference, and if he wakes up early, it doesn't matter. He can have time to play before getting ready for school, rather than cut short his sleep. If you need to leave at 8.30am, try setting bedtime at 7.30pm, with a story until 8pm, and then lights out and to sleep. Let's say your child wakes up at 6.30am most mornings (suggest he plays in his room quietly until 7am), your child then has plenty of time to have breakfast and get ready for school in a relaxed manner. It also means he has an extra hour or so, to sleep when he needs it.
If you find you still need to wake him for school, move bedtime 10 minutes earlier until he is able to wake up in time naturally.
Bedtime Battles - Step One - The Explanation
How to get your child to bed on time - without the drama
What about getting your child to go to bed on time?
I believe it's important to first of all explain the reasons for getting enough sleep. Tell your child that among the most important things that happen during sleep are: growing, healing, processing things they've learned during the day, working out problems and worries, and so on. Among the benefits of good sleep are: feeling happy and energised, and being able to concentrate and focus. Explain to him that if you have to wake him in the morning for school, those important processes are interrupted. Tell him you feel very strongly about this, and are not prepared to deprive him of his sleep.
I can't imagine a child who, on hearing this, will simply say, "Okay, no problem, I'll go right to bed." But, by explaining the reason and logic behind your taking a strong stand regarding bed time, you are giving the message that you are acting out of logic and reason, and not simply out of authority.
Step Two - It's Logical
The next step is to put your foot down in the nicest way. Having impressed upon your child, the importance of sleep, you now need to explain to him that: because getting enough sleep is so vital to his well-being, health and development, if he doesn't get enough sleep tonight, he will need to catch up tomorrow night. A way of putting it is: "You really need to go to sleep now. Unfortunately if you're not in bed by 7.30 and asleep by eight, you're going to have to go to bed earlier tomorrow night to catch up on sleep."
Step Three - The 10 Minute Agreement
It's important to realise and accept that it's highly unlikely he will go to sleep at this stage - he's bound to resist.
If you're expecting it, and are prepared for it, it lowers the stress and frustration a bit. :
So, now is the time to say: "If you're not asleep by the time I come back in ten minutes, you'll need to go to bed ten minutes earlier tomorrow night to catch up." All of this should be said - and meant - in a genuinely caring way. Your concern is that your child consistently gets enough sleep.
If he needs to stay up later one night because of an activity or a visitor that's fine, but he'll need to catch up the next night. It's not a punishment, it's a fact of nature.
Getting Enough Sleep vs Being Obedient
Keeping things in perspective helps too. The issue is not whether he is doing as he's told, or being "naughty" and won't go to bed, the issue is that he gets enough sleep. It's important he knows that.
If your child currently goes to bed late, and you want to increase his sleep, start bringing his bedtime forward by just 10 minutes at a time - the adjustment will be easier than bringing it forward suddenly by an hour.
Most importantly: stay true to your word! If you've said "If you're not asleep by the time I come back in 10 minutes, you'll need to go to bed earlier tomorrow night", and he's still clearly awake when you come back, make sure you confirm that he will be going to bed 10 minutes earlier tomorrow night. Build it from there - in the next 10 minutes, if he's not asleep, he'll need to catch up on 20 minutes tomorrow night. He will probably eventually get the idea and at least pretend to be asleep in 10 minutes - which is close enough as there's a good chance that while he's pretending, he will fall asleep.
Here comes the vital bit: Come tomorrow night, it is absolutely essential you move bedtime to the 10 or 20 or 30 minutes earlier - whatever it ended up as.
Your child is bound to object, and this is the "make or break" situation you need to conquer.
No matter how much your child objects, no matter how dramatic his protests, you need to be firm and stick by your decision - but in a very sympathetic way: "I'm sorry sweetheart, I know it's frustrating, and you feel you don't need the extra sleep, and if it wasn't so important, I wouldn't insist on it. But unfortunately, there's nothing I can do about it - your body and mind need the sleep, and of course, you lost 20 minutes last night, so you do need to catch up tonight."
... and here's a phrase that helps more than you'll expect: "But then tomorrow night, you'll be back to normal, so then you can go to bed at the normal time of ....pm. So, into bed and straight to sleep, goodnight sweetheart." Reminding your child that he has the power to not have this happen again, by going to bed at the required time, helps to take his focus off the current frustration and to put it onto something he can control.
It's important that your attitude demonstrates that you're on his side - you're not trying to teach him a lesson or dish out punishment, you're trying to help him to get enough sleep because you want him to be a happy, healthy, alert and energetic child who is able to cope with his life.
Now, some children will get the idea, and go to sleep as requested, planning to not have this happen again. Others will protest further, and need another "If you're not asleep in the next 10 minutes, unfortunately you're going to have even more to catch up tomorrow night." (It's important to say this with kindness in your tone - it's a fact of life, not a punishment ;) )
I can't emphasise enough how important it is to stick to your promise. You'll only need to follow it through once or twice. Once your child knows you mean it, and that there's no room for debate or discussion on this subject, the next time you say "If you're not asleep by eight you'll have to go to bed earlier tomorrow night" he will believe that you mean it, and he will go to sleep (or at least pretend to - which is fine).
* You will see a marked improvement in your child's behavior if he starts to get a regular, consistent full quota of the sleep he needs. Although it may not be obvious or logical, a lack of consistently getting enough sleep can make a child's behavior appear to be naughty, cheeky, moody, listless, and/or irritable. Your child may not appear to be tired (and certainly many children will deny feeling tired even when they're exhausted), but being tired is not the only symptom of sleep deprivation.
* This is a valuable foundation for setting and enforcing boundaries in a loving, supportive way. Your child will learn to trust that you: a) have valid reasons for wanting him to get more sleep, you are not just asserting authority and b) mean what you say and are true to your word.
* The method of catching up lost sleep in portions of 10 minutes takes the pressure off you. You don't have to nag, punish, raise your voice or threaten. It's a calm, loving approach of: "You need this amount of sleep, and unfortunately, if you can't manage to get to sleep by the time I come back, I understand and I know you can't help it, but because you will then be short of 10 minutes of sleep, we need to make it up tomorrow night."
That's it. No anger, no retribution. :)
Tools and Suggestions for Helping Your Child Get to Sleep More Easily
A few suggestions that will help:
1. Have a No Caffeine policy. No colas, for example. If there's a special occasion and you feel you want to allow your child to drink cola, make sure it's not later than 3pm (this will vary according to the age, size and individual chemistry of the child, and may need to be earlier). Offer a healthier but tasty alternative and, if your child is old enough, patiently explain what caffeine is, and why it's too late in the day to have it.
2. Try limiting sugar intake from late afternoon as well. Replace sugary deserts after supper, with fruit, yoghurt, or other options with low sugar - and try bringing supper time forward a little if you can. Again, if your child is old enough, explain to him what sugar does and why having it after a certain time of day is not an option because it prevents him from falling asleep.
3. Reading a bedtime story together, once your child has done his teeth and is completely ready for bed can help create the calm atmosphere needed for falling asleep.
4. No T.V. or computer/ playstation etc. games just before bed. This is a big one. Watching T.V. or playing games up till bedtime will hinder the falling asleep process. Each child is different, but I'd say allow at least an hour between T.V. or games, and bedtime. And then, if you find your child is still struggling to fall asleep, try increasing that gap.
Below are a few more resources and tools to help with getting your child to sleep more easily...
If your child is resistant to going to bed, try using an audio book. Ideally your child would go straight to sleep after you've read to her, but some children struggle, especially if they're used to staying up later. Using an audio book will help the child look forward to bedtime (wanting to know what happens next in the story) as well as help her to fall asleep - as long as the story is relaxing and imaginitve rather than stimulating.
These make an excellent Christmas gift for children who have bedtime or getting-to-sleep issues!
Play just a little section (20 minutes or so) after good-night kisses and lights out. This will help your child look forward to bedtime rather than resist it, and will also help them to fall asleep easier.