Why won’t you sleep child?
How many times have you stared down your clearly exhausted child, who nevertheless refuses to sleep? You know very well that all they need is a good nap or full nights sleep to iron out their irritability. But, they still fight you with all their might to stay awake. All the while, you wonder why anyone would choose to miss out on the opportunity to catch a few extra winks of sleep.
Children’s sleep routines are easily upset. Changes to their daily activities, diet and bedtime routine can confuse their internal body clocks. More importantly, if they are either over or under stimulated during the day, they may struggle to fall asleep. Of course, every child is different and each will have their own sleep needs. Make it a habit to monitor your child’s sleep patterns carefully. Did they try out a new food which upset them during the night? Did they miss out on their afternoon nap? Have they spent enough time playing outside rather than seated in front of a television or tablet screen? All of these everyday activities can play a factor in your child’s ability to fall asleep.
Sleep patterns from birth to early adulthood
Children’s sleep requirements constantly change as they grow. However, there are guidelines for the amount of sleep your child should be getting according to their age group.
- Babies aged one to four weeks old have not yet developed a day/night sleep cycle. Their need is first and foremost to be fed, meaning that they will likely wake every two to three hours. However, they should be getting 16 – 17 hours of sleep a day. They begin to differentiate between day and night between one to four months of age. So, hang in there zombie parents!
- From the age of four months to one year old, babies may start sleeping through the night (do not rub it in other parents faces if your baby does this). They need between 14 – 15 hours of sleep a day, including up to three naps over the course of the day. This is the age to start establishing good bedtime habits.
- Toddlers (age one to three years), need about 12 – 14 hours of sleep a day. They may nap less if they start preschool or are highly active.
- From three to six years of age children need 11- 12 hours of sleep. As they start ‘big school’ their naps may fall away all together.
- Pre-adolescents (age 7 – 12) need an average of 10 – 12 hours of sleep time. Be sure to monitor that their extra mural activities and school work do not overtake their required hours of rest.
- The teenage years may prove a challenge for many parents. Teens need around 8 – 10 hours of sleep, but rarely achieve this for various reasons. Their body clocks are wired differently from children and adults, meaning that they have special sleep needs. Insomnia or oversleeping may creep up at this age. Monitor your teen closely for signs of lack of sleep, as this can contribute to depression and anxiety.
Essential bedtime hacks
Establish a routine
Setting up a regular bedtime routine is vital to ensuring everyone in the household gets a good nights sleep. Many parents follow a schedule of bath time, pajamas, brushing teeth and bed. You can adjust this schedule to suit your needs, but keep it simple and consistent. Also allow adequate time to get the kids into their routine. It should take between 15 – 30 minutes for them to understand that it is time to start winding down for the evening.
Set the scene
Children need to feel safe and secure to fall asleep. Create the perfect sleepy environment for them by decking out their bedroom with soft, snug blankets, dark curtains and other creature comforts. Most kids need a little light to sleep, too. Check out Illuminate Creations range of colour changing night lights. They each come with 20 colours, are USB chargeable and are adjustable via a remote control. Their designs include Queen Elsa from Disney’s Frozen, Peppa Pig and The Paw Patrol gang. Custom made designs can also be ordered for *R680.
Enhance the sensory experience by introducing essential oils and ambient sound to your child’s bedroom. Add a few drops of Soil Lavender Oil available at Dischem stores to your child’s pre-bed bath. Alternatively, place the Soil Aroma diffuser in their bedroom to release the soothing scent all night long. In addition, produce calming ambient sound in your child’s sleep environment with a fan or similar noise cancelling device. It is not advisable to use sleep sound apps on your cell phone to soothe your child to sleep. The light from your device can keep their brains alert and may be a distraction.
Limit caffeine, sugar and heavy snacks
Restrict your child from consuming sodas loaded with caffeine and sugar, between three to six hours before bedtime. Ensure that dinner is served well before bed as well. If your child asks for a snack before bedtime, give them a glass of warm milk or a few low sodium crackers. Place a bottle of water next to their bed to stop them from getting up during the night.
We all had a favourite teddy bear or blanket growing up, right? Gift your child with their choice of soft, cuddly object to snuggle up with a night. These transitional objects offer comfort and may prevent you having to soothe your child all night long. Visit Hamleys toy store to find a wonderful range of teddy bears to choose from, or take your precious angel to the Build-A-Bear Workshop in Sandton City to create their very own fuzzy friend.