How to get children to sleep longer
There is a divide in the country. One voice shouting ‘hurrah’ for the extra hour in bed in the morning, and the other wringing their hands in fear and muttering about the ‘damned clocks going back’ – ruining their child’s sleep pattern. But fear not parents of Britain – help is on hand. We’ve come up with some top tips on how to get your child to sleep longer in the mornings – and what better time to put these tips into practice than when the clocks go back this Sunday.
Early bird catches the worm
… Or makes a racket and wakes the rest of the house up. Every child is different – you may have an early riser or a night owl – in some ways you’ll have to resign yourself to this fact, and try your hardest to make the best of a bad situation! But in reality, that kind of advice doesn’t really cut it when you have to cope with over-tired children on very little sleep yourself.
First, take 30 minutes to walk around your child’s room. You’re checking for anything that could affect your child’s melatonin levels – this is the hormone that regulates the body clock.
Keep your eyes peeled for LED gadgets; phones, tablets, even TVs – the standby lights can subconsciously affect your child’s sleep.
Of course the most important aspect of a sleep-inducing bedroom is to make it 100% gadget-free. The lights emitted from these affect melatonin levels, not to mention the distraction they provide. If your child knows there’s a TV or super-cool gadget to be played with, it’s no wonder they will be itching to wake up early in the morning to play Angry Birds.
Take a look at the curtains – are they thick or lined? Will they prevent sunlight coming into the room at 6am, and alerting your little one that it’s time to play? You could try adding black-out lining to the existing curtains, or install blinds behind them.
If your wee one can’t tell the time, a nifty trick is to make a cardboard clock face and paint on the time you’d like them to stay in bed until, such as 7am. Prop the cardboard clock up next to the real clock so your child can see when she needs to stay in bed until.
If they simply can’t stay in bed any longer, then provide a few quiet toys, colouring-in books and a couple of story-books for your child to amuse themselves with. But stressing they cannot come out of their room until the agreed upon time.
If your child is accustomed to you rocking them to sleep, or coming in to their room every time they wake up, you are strengthening the connection they have between you and being able to sleep. If you start to help them learn to self-soothe, this can often lead to your child being able to put themselves back to sleep if they wake up too early. Try sticking to a calming bedtime routine that ends in a cuddle and a kiss goodnight, and you leaving them to get to sleep on their own. The same rule applies during the night. If you let them get themselves back to sleep, you’re giving them the tools to apply this in the morning as well.
Some children wake up very hungry, this can be a reason they’re waking up early or won’t go back to sleep. You can try giving them a small healthy snack before bed, which might tie them over till a reasonable hour. But if you’re happy with your child to take themselves downstairs on their own when they wake up, make sure they have some rules in place. Some children enjoy making their own breakfasts – this may fill you with horror – but if you leave the bowl, spoon and cereal out, along with a small jug of milk in the fridge, they should be able to manage it quite well themselves.
October 25th 2013