Many parents struggle with bed time and even refer to it as “the witching hour”! Children call out for a drink of water, want yet another story, and demand more food. Parents feel frustrated and exhausted! All are delaying tactics to stave off the inevitable……..time for sleep! Parents need respite from children to re-charge their batteries and all children need their sleep. Most young children need to be in bed and asleep by 7.30pm, however young children who still have a day time sleep may still be up after this time and should be encouraged to play quietly while other siblings are trying to go to sleep.
It will be helpful if you can encourage a quieter time in the home from 5.30pm. Avoiding rough and tumble games, running, jumping and chasing and squealing games. Remember you are trying to wind down the day for your child.
If children are grizzling and attention seeking give them food earlier rather than later and ensure they are drinking lots of water to hydrate the brain!
It is really important to establish a bed time routine. Once this is established children will feel safe and calm as they know what to expect and evenings will flow smoothly. Try to be consistent as children are less likely to push boundaries and test limits if they know what to expect.
Children resist sleep for many reasons:-
- They may want more time with Mum & Dad.
- They may be over stimulated or excited from playing.
- They may have eaten sugar… ice cream or lollies.
- They may be overstimulated from watching T.V or a DVD.
- They may feel genuinely scared or frightened to be in their room
However there are many things you can do to assist your child to settle to sleep happily. Children can be over stimulated by watching T.V. or DVDS in the afternoon and evening. Television can over-stimulate children and anything with adult themes should be avoided. In particular do not allow young children to watch the news. By eliminating television viewing from the afternoon and evening children will be more relaxed, calm & settled and you will find bedtime much more relaxed.
By ensuring children have low GI lunch and afternoon tea they will be have more available energy to eat dinner, listen and be co-operative. Sugar laden foods such as cakes, sweets, cordial and ice cream can cause children to be “hyped” and have difficulty settling to sleep. Avoid giving sweet treats such as lollies or chocolates as rewards for eating dinner!
If your routine in the early evening is not working then change it! You may need to bring everything forward by 15 – 30 minutes. You may simply need to plan bath before dinner. By slightly re-vamping the routine you may have more co-operative children.
Tips for calm bedtime.
- Establish a routine and be consistent.
- Spend time playing child centred games with your child every day.
- Avoid rough & tumble play before bed time
- Serve low GI food for afternoon tea & dinner.
- Ensure your child is tired by providing plenty of outdoor time and physical exercise. At least 2 hours a day for younger children.
- Avoid watching T.V. and videos in the afternoon and evening.
- Avoid high sugar foods including cordial and ice cream (substitute with unsweetened yogurt & fruit)
- Have a set number of stories each evening and stick to it.
Suggested Bedtime Routine for 4-7 year olds
- 3.30 Low GI Snack
- 5. 15 – 5.30 Low GI Dinner
- 6.00 Bath
- 6.45 2 Stories
- 7.00 Lights out
If children are resisting the bath it is OK. They do not have to have a bath every night. However immersion in water can calm children. Sometimes bath before dinner is a good idea.
I appreciate that this advice will not work for all families. Many parents both work full time, returning home after 6.30pm most evenings. Others are single parents or shift workers. Whatever your situation/hours children will benefit from a routine so please contact me if you need assistance with establishing a routine that works for your family. 02 9939 3732 or 0416 153 602