I have a general weakness for all things pink, vintage and nostalgic. So when all these features appeared before my very eyes recently, in one adorable little package, a 1950’s vintage Noddy clock became mine.
Actually, I justified the purchase on the grounds that it had clear numbers on the face and that it would be an excellent teaching tool for helping our six year old to learn to tell the time.
So now when we say a particular time, the Noddy clock is referred to and the hours and minutes are counted. And while she can usually make a good guess at the time, the one time she does know very well is seven o’clock. Why? Because this is her bedtime.
Young children (under five) need around 11-12 hours of sleep each night. Primary aged children need only slightly less, at around 9-11 hours each night. And it is not only the amount that is important, but also the regularity of the time children sleep.
Going to bed at different times, throughout early childhood, may disrupt healthy brain development and learning. Researchers from the United Kingdom found that irregular bedtimes disrupted natural body rhythms and could in turn affect the ability of the brain to acquire and retain information.
Australian research also found that poor sleep was associated with lower math and literacy skills, as well as behavioural problems in childhood. And that as little as one hour less each night can cause these issues.
I am also sure that any parent could also add to this research with their own evidence of the effects of poor sleep – grumpy, irritable, sluggish and disagreeable children (and perhaps parents too).
So how do we encourage a regular bedtime and sufficient sleep each night?
- Maintain a consistent sleep schedule – keep going-to-bed and waking times consistent throughout the entire week. Try to avoid, wherever possible, long weekend sleep ins and late nights.
- Exercise every day – not only is it good for general health, it will aid in encouraging sleep too.
- Do not go to bed hungry, but also try to keep about 1-2 hours between the last meal of the day and bedtime.
- Keep the last hour of the day for quiet, relaxing activities. Reading, listening to calming music, taking a bath, brushing teeth can all lead up to bedtime. Detailed homework, computer use or television should not be part of this time. Try to spend the last 10 minutes or so in the place where the child will sleep.
- Provide a good bedroom environment. The room should be quiet, dark (although a night light is okay) and at a comfortable temperature. Make the bedroom a secure and safe place associated with positive feelings, by not using it as a time out space during the day. Establish a pattern to your final goodnight, keeping it brief and reassuring. Say good night, give a hug or a kiss, sing a lullaby, pray together, turn off the lights and leave the room.
- Meet any resistance or getting out of bed calmly, but firmly. Try not to become emotionally engaged, but stand your ground. Having a mantra like ‘a good nights sleep helps you to be your best’ can help maintain your cool. Children need parents to set the boundaries and then maintain them, giving them security and certainty, and hopefully a good night sleep for everyone.