Children go through many cycles with sleep, from being babies who are a ‘good sleeper’ or ‘difficult sleeper’, to toddlers who usually wake early, through to teens who you can’t get out of bed for love nor money. But how much sleep is enough and how do you get a difficult sleeper to actually go to sleep?
How much sleep is enough?
Hundreds of surveys have been done on this, but the average for a child of school age is 9-12 hours a night. However, every child is different and this also varies with age and other conditions like ADHD.
For some children getting to sleep is easy, for others getting their little eyes to close isn’t so simple.
As with anything children need to learn, routine is key. Repetition is the single most powerful tool in teaching a child something from spelling to sleeping.
Set a clear bedtime and work back from that rather than past it. If you know that the end time is that you want them in bed and lights out by 8pm, you can then factor in the amount of time you need for their bath, teeth brushing, story, trips to the toilet and the inevitable drink.
Have everything ready and in the same place, so you don’t waste time looking for the hairbrush or toothpaste. Keep the amount of time needed to get everything done as short as possible, but not rushed. A flustered child before bed can make sleep even more difficult. Take five minutes before you start their bedtime routine to make sure you have everything you need – the glass of water, the PJs and the teddy.
Having your child choose their bedtime story earlier on in the evening also saves a long and frustrating challenge of picking which book to read.
Can’t sleep, won’t sleep
If you have a troubled sleeper, it can make everything seem ten times harder than it needs to be. An overtired child will find it harder to learn, harder to listen and – let’s face it – harder to be around. If they really struggle to get to sleep there are some magic tricks that can help them to ease off into the land of nod.
Hypnosis is a fantastic way to relax them. We’re not talking the ‘look into my eyes’ type of hypnosis, but using gentle, relaxing tones leading up to bedtime. Elaine Martin has a great series of audio hypnosis, which is more meditation in practice for free on YouTube. A gentle story about a puppy that can’t get to sleep will guide them through a restful journey and off to sleep. You can play this on your phone, tablet or even through your sound system. Just remember to download an evening filter if you’re playing it on a device, as the light from electronic devices can act as a stimulant and keep them awake even longer.
Lush have also released a sleep boosting cream which is getting rave reviews. As it’s natural, it’s safe for children to use. Simply massage in before bed and the lavender smell will help them drift off to sleep.
Massage is also another key way to relax children ready for bed. If they’re happy to listen to a story, play an audio book and let you massage their head, back, arms and legs. It will make them feel totally relaxed. If your child has long hair brushing this with a nice hairbrush can also be relaxing.
Reading to children will also help them to feel chilled-out and ready to switch off. Reading helps with so many things, from vocabulary to spelling, but the bonding quality of a bedtime story cannot be matched. And, if you’re looking for an incentive for good sleeping behaviour, the next book in the series is a fantastic educational and sleep boosting treat.
Fingers crossed for a good night’s sleep!