“Wow, that nap changed my life!” This is one of the funniest and most profound things my second son, Eli said over the holidays. We had been having the usual crazy holiday festivities, running here and there, delivering goodies, attending family Christmas parties and all the other fun things that don’t fit in the usual day to day routine. I think the week of Christmas my kids were up until 10 or 11 PM almost every night. Needless to say, they were exhausted at the end of that week and the exhaustion was starting to creep into the tone of the kids’ voices and everyone’s patience was getting a bit short. After things had settled down a little, we had one relaxed day when we had nothing planned. We played some Legos, read some books and then all of us took a nap. A nap has never felt so wonderful. When we rose from our naps all of us felt renewed and Eli said it best when he strolled into the kitchen and announced, “Wow, that nap changed my life.”
Sleep really can change our lives and our kids lives. The quality of our kid’s sleep can have a significant impact on how they feel, their ability to learn and manage input from the world around them. It greatly influences their ability to regulate their emotions and reactions and apply skills they have learned.
Kids sometimes struggle to manage emotions and behavior. This is normal to some extent, but each of us is aware of the times when they are beside themselves with emotionality and they just can’t seem to keep it together. We have probably all said at one of these moments, “he is really tired! He needs a nap!” It seems almost intuitive for parents to recognize that sleep deprivation equals unhappy kids and sleepy, unhappy kids often equal cranky parents. We don’t like cranky kids and kids don’t like cranky parents so I asked Alanna McGinn, a sleep expert from the Good Night Sleep Site to share some pointers on how to help our kids get better sleep. She offered the following 3 points to improve the amount and quality of our children’s sleep to help us get out of this poor sleep/grumpy family cycles. I’ve also added 3 other tips to Alanna’s awesome advice.
6 Ways to increase the amount and quality of your kid’s sleep
“1. Understand the importance of sleep for your child. I think as parents we tend to forget that as we go through major transitions in life and use extra sleep to get through those times, our children do as well and can use the same remedy. During the toddler to preschool age group there are 2 major transitions taking place for your little ones. They are dropping naps and starting preschool or kindergarten and that can take a lot out of them. Whenever they are going through a major transition in their day-to-day, possibly experiencing stress, and getting less daytime sleep it’s important to move up bedtime earlier for a few weeks while they adjust to the change. This will help make the transition easier on them and their bodies.
2. Communicate about the importance of sleep. This is one I am always discussing with my parents. Get talking about sleep with your child. Why is it important? How do you feel when you’ve had a good night of sleep? How do you feel when you haven’t? With the older kids sometimes I’ll encourage family meetings so that the parents can discuss their sleep expectations with their children and the child can have a better understanding of what needs to happen at night and why. Make it fun! Sleep should never be viewed as a punishment or chore. Be your child’s number one role model. When mom and dad practice proper sleep hygiene your child will understand better why they need to as well.
3. The easiest step to implement is a consistent bedtime routine. When practicing a consistent calming routine your child will get better prepared for sleep, and bedtime becomes easier. It’s also a great opportunity to have some solid bonding time with your child when both of you may have had a busy day away from each other.”
The italicized 3 sleep tips above were contributed by Alanna McGinn of Good Night Sleep Site. Make sure to check out her site and facebook page for more great tips and secrets of better sleep for the whole family.
4. Stop making sleep the enemy. When bedtime finally rolls around, we are usually tired and ready to get the kids to bed and have a few moments to relax and rejuvenate, but in the process of “putting the kids to bed” we tend to lose patience and give bedtime and sleep a bad name. We try to “force” our kids to sleep. Heather Turgeon recently published an article on the New York Times “Motherlode” entitled “Sleep’s Marketing Problem: You ‘Have To’ Go To Bed.” She says… “I write about sleep, so I think about the science and benefits a lot, but I’d never thought so much about how we position sleep. We want our children to do it, but in countless subtle ways we tell them that sleep is something undesirable, negative or even a punishment. “We’re late for bed,” or “We have to go to bed,” with an anxious tone. Why couldn’t I say, with a welcoming tone, “We’re almost ready for cozy time, let’s go get snugly and warm. Like any parent, I think of sleep as a welcome treat, so why wasn’t I presenting it this way to my children?”
It’s worth asking ourselves the question, “How am I portraying bedtime and sleep to my children? Is it something to loathe or look forward to?
5. Make their sleep environment as comfortable as possible. Too much light? Too little light? Uncomfortable mattress? Are they too cold or hot? This doesn’t mean that you have to go spend thousands of dollars on a new mattress for your little one. It simply means that we should be sensitive to our children’s comfort level and realize that if they are waking up with pain or un rested, they may just need a change in temperature or a different pillow.
6. Have a screen bedtime. Research has shown that the blue light associated with the many screens we use including, TV, video games, tablets and smart phones all contribute to more difficulty falling asleep and decrease our quality of sleep. This can be helpful to parents and kids alike. If you and your children are not able or willing to give up the screens before bed, studies have shown that wearing amber tinted lenses while using your devices can help cut the blue that that disrupts our bodies natural sleep patterns.
We already have enough challenges as parents without adding our own and our children’s exhaustion to the mix. These six tips can provide helpful transitions to more and better sleep for you and your kids.
Just as my son stated so well, a good, restful sleep can literally change our life. So, if your child has been struggling to get along with siblings, listen and follow directions or regulate his emotions, have you considered sleep? If so, how can you apply the six tips above to increase and improve their sleep and in turn, improve your lives? What else do you do to improve your own and your children’s sleep?
Would you like to learn more about letting go of the past and changing negative parenting and family patterns and cycles once and for all? You can get a FREE sample chapter of the TRU Parenting ebook “5 Jump Starters for Powerful Family Cycles” that will give you simple principles and tools that can help to set you and your child on the path to positive patterns of growth and happiness!
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