The benefits of sufficient sleep are manifold, from improved concentration and memory enhancement to a healthier emotional state and a stronger immune system. There’s an additional perk for parents too: when children go to bed early, parents have a chance to relax and bond before getting their own much-needed rest. Here are five ways to make this happen.
Promote early and consistent bedtimes as a healthy habit.
If your child is resistant to bedtimes, a reward system may help to motivate your child during the habit formation stage. For instance, you can use a sticker chart, where you award stickers to your child for sleeping early. When your child accumulates an agreed upon number of stickers, you can reward him or her with a special treat, such as an extra hour of playtime during the weekend.
Consistency plays a part as well—if children stay up late during the school holidays, there will be a period of adjustment as they reacclimate to an earlier bedtime once school resumes. An early bedtime may also take on a negative connotation if children begin to associate it with school.
Create enjoyable bedtime routines.
The more children look forward to sleep, the easier it will be to get them into bed. Children love bedtime stories and you can read to your children or spin your own tales; if you are busy, audiobooks can provide joy as well. You can also use soothing music to set the mood and signal that bedtime is approaching.
Practise time management.
Decide on an ideal bedtime as well as an absolute bedtime, so that your child has some leeway (from 15 minutes to half an hour) for pre-bedtime routines such as brushing one’s teeth. To make it easier for your child to adhere to bedtimes, ensure that he or she does not get overly energised before bedtime by engaging in activities such as vigorous exercise, exposure to exciting or potentially disturbing content, as well as consuming caffeinated beverages. Such stimulating activities can cause the over-release of hormones such as adrenaline, which may disrupt the sleep cycle and affect the quality of sleep.
Create conditions that are conducive for sleep.
To fall asleep easily, your child’s room should be cool, but not cold. Open the window to let a natural breeze provide a cooling respite, or provide an extra blanket if the night gets chilly.
Ensure that your child’s bedroom is quiet and dark enough for sleep. Turn off sources of bright lights, especially from electronic devices. However, let your child have a nightlight or leave the bedroom door open if it makes your child more secure. Playing soft and soothing music may also help to lull your child to sleep.
To create a positive sleep association, it’s best if your child’s bed is used only for sleeping, and not for play.
Seek help for sleep challenges.
If your child has trouble falling asleep at night, do consult your paediatrician or general practitioner for advice. Such struggles should be promptly addressed, as this affects not only your child’s bedtime, but also the length and quality of rest, and your child’s ability to function during the day.