Thursday, March 21, 2019

Parenting Pointers: 5 Tips for Making Bedtime Less Exhausting

Sleep is the one health factor that trumps all others. You can neglect your new Paleo diet or forget your daily meditation sit for a few years, and you can still at least act like a human with coworkers and family. But disrupted sleep has broad and far-reaching effects for adults and children of all ages.

Johns Hopkins links sleep deprivation to very significant increases (think 30% - 50%) in heart disease, colorectal cancer, type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, obesity, dangerous decision making and risk taking, risk of dementia, anxiety, memory loss, poor emotional regulation, and depression. Parents don’t need to hear the science, however - they live it every day. So here are 5 tips to establish good sleep hygiene. These positive habits positive habits will set you and your family up for holistic wellbeing through all stages of childhood.

The Magic of the Nightly Routine

Photo by Annie Spratt on Unsplash
Brand-new parents don’t have the luxury of establishing a routine because infants go through a variety of intense developmental stages, but after a few months an established routine will help cue babies to sleep time, and will help them fall back asleep if they wake. At the toddler stage, a variety of habits will create quality sleep and set everyone up for a successful next day. Storytelling is a classic way to reduce stimulation, and some children may find a small snack calming. Of course, establish self-care habits such as brushing teeth and settling with a gratitude practice or prayer/quiet time. Each child is different so experiment – but when you find what works, keep the time, order, and duration of each activity consistent.

The Magic of the Daily Routine

No surprise here, daily routine effects sleep as well. Screen time is a biggie – this study reports showed a dramatic link between daily screen time and delayed bedtimes, poorer sleep quality, and less sleep overall. Luckily, decreased screen time leads to increased healthy factors. Natural light and exercise help with healthy circadian rhythms. Nutrition plays a large role of course, and as children get older they will need guidance on how to regulate stress from school and social groups.


Photo by Allen Taylor on Unsplash

“Hope for the best and prepare for the worst.” This axiom has never been more true. There are classic nightly disruptions that are important to plan for. For instance, all children will have nightmares at some point, as they learn how to process their powerful emotions. Respect these emotions and establish a method of care: will they be allowed in your bed? Reduce bedwetting stress by keeping a few layers of moisture pads and clean sheets on the bed, so only a quick strip is needed. Reduce tantrums by focusing on the upcoming story, and make sure that their bedding is not too hot or cold, and that they have a comfortable mattress and the right pillow.

Positive Reinforcements

It’s important for children to learn that they are developing the ability to soothe themselves in different ways at different ages. At some point babies and children should be eased out of assistance with sleep aids and shown independence. Use positive reinforcements such as stickers or games rather than punitive tactics, to encourage a child to want to practice healthy use of will power and self-control.

Find the right tools
Photo by Bastien Jaillot on Unsplash
When it comes to getting a good night’s sleep consistently, that means having the proper tools: bed rails, night lights, mattress protectors, and the bed itself. Start with the type of mattress you want your child to sleep on. Dust mites, a common pest found in mattresses, can trigger allergies, so if your child has allergies, consider an organic mattress that is naturally resistant if microbes. If they are super active, make sure they have a supportive bed that doesn’t cause them to wake up with aches and pains. Next, invest in a mattress protector to protect your mattress against accidents and spills. You should also consider adding bed rails and nightlights to promote bedroom safety.

Outsourcing Support

Unfortunately, studies are showing increased mental health issues in young adults over the last decade, and sleep loss is a huge factor Excessive sleep, or the lack thereof, could be a sign of depression, thyroid issues, or bullying. You and your pediatrician can see what is normal for your child, or if more comprehensive help is needed.

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