The Parent Classroom Newsletter > Ten Tips For a Good Night's Sleep
Ten Tips For a Good Night's Sleep

Sep 23, 2009

Fall is here and the days are getting shorter. If you have been yearning for a good night?s sleep, now is the time to act! A restful sleep is crucial for everyone in the family. It is the key for a healthy productive day, for satisfying adult relationships and for rewarding connections with children.

Lack of sleep impairs emotion regulation, behavior and attention span. The latest research shows that lack of sleep contributes significantly to child misbehavior. The experts tell us that children from preschool through school-age need 10 to 12 hours of sleep to function well the next day. So what's a parent to do? Here are some guidelines:

1) Does your child seem to get a second wind at bedtime? Is she running around the house, jumping on the bed, talking a mile a minute? These are signs of being overtired, as opposed to calm tired. Children will be more easily put to bed in the window of time before they become overtired. They will enjoy a more restful sleep. Once they enter the overtired zone, they are physiologically unable to settle down. Again, collect some data. Notice when your child begins to rev up and get that second wind. Begin your bedtime a half hour earlier than that time.

2) Create a calm and relaxed bedtime ritual. Start with a transition activity such as a quiet game. Determine the tasks that need to be done at bedtime and set a time and an order for each one. You can also use a timer to keep you on task. The goal is to keep the atmosphere calm and conducive to sleepiness. Does a bath or roughhousing with parents over stimulate your child? If so, consider doing this before dinner, or well before the bedtime routine begins. Get everything done: snacks, pajamas., teeth brushing, before you settle down in the bedroom to snuggle and read.

3) Do not allow your children to use computers, watch TV or play video games at bedtime. These activities stimulate a child's brain and make it more difficult for him to settle down.

4) Ritualize your bedtime routine, so that you do the same thing in the same order every night. This helps your child develop sleep cues which foster a feeling of sleepiness. A bedtime routine need only take about 30 minutes. This is feasible when children are in the calm tired, and not overtired mode.

5) Create opportunities for connecting with your child. Snuggle close while you read books together. Ask your child about the happy, sad and scary parts of their day. Play soft music. Make this part of the bedtime ritual.

6) Create a sleep environment that welcomes sleep. Black out shades are helpful for some children, or a white noise machine or soft music, or a special lovey or blanket.

7) Once you have completed your bedtime ritual, leave your child's room when he is still awake. Remember: you are taking on the job of teaching your child the important skill of being able to fall asleep on his own. Say something like, "Okay honey, it?s time to go to sleep and stay in your own bed. We know you can do it." And leave the room. Do not give into more requests for water, snacks, hugs or books. Your child is expressing his frustration at having to learn this new skill, and is pulling for you to be there and help him do it.

8) If your child gets out of bed, calmly walk her back to bed, repeating the above mantra. Stay calm and focused on the goal. This is a learning opportunity for her and a teaching opportunity for you. Do not engage in any communication or give her any attention that reinforces the behavior and keeps it in place. Just calmly walk her back to bed?many times if need be. This can happen at the beginning of the evening or during the middle of the night.

9) If your child is upset, start a series of check-ins. The first happens after 5 minutes, the second after 10 minutes, and then every 15 minutes thereafter until the child is asleep. At each check in, remind him "It's time to go to sleep. I know you can do it. I love you and will be back to check on you." Refrain from touching your child, as this teases him into thinking that you are going to be there to help him go to sleep. Stay in the room for only 30 seconds.

10) Keep your eye on the prize! More time in the evening for you and your partner! Well rested parents! A rested and happier child! A good night?s sleep is going to profit everyone in your family. Do the hard work of helping your children develop this skill now. It can take a few days or a week. It may take putting up with some crying and fussing, but the benefits are huge!

Jill Shugart, M.A., MFT - 910 Tulare Ave., Berkeley, CA 94707 - 510-528-0309 -
Ca. Lic.#MFT32528



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