Does this sound familiar? “Turn off the TV. Shut down the video game. Close your book. It’s time for bed…No, you may not stay up for ten more minutes…You say that you’re not tired, but you played in a double header today and your body needs the rest.”
The average child has a busy day. There’s school, taking care of pets, running around with friends, going to sports practice or other activities, and completing homework. Phew! It’s tiring just writing it all down. By the end of the day, their bodies need a break.
Not only is sleep necessary for the body, it’s important for the brain too. Though no one is exactly sure what work the brain does when you’re asleep, scientists believe that the brain sorts through and stores information, replaces chemicals, and solves problems while you sleep. Researchers also believe too little sleep can affect a child’s growth and immune systems.
So, how can a parent encourage good sleep habits in their children?
- Make sure your child doesn’t eat a heavy meal before bedtime. Snacks should be eaten at least 30 minutes before bedtime to ensure he or she has time to burn off calories and extra sugar. And, remember, no caffeine or sugary snacks!
- Warn your child that bedtime is in five minutes, or give him a choice — “Do you want to go to bed now or in five minutes?” But, do this only once.
- I know that you’ve heard this a million times, but keep your child’s sleep routine consistent. Establish a consistent and relaxing bedtime routine that lasts between 20 and 30 minutes and ends in your child’s bedroom. Avoid scary stories or TV shows. It’s better to read a favorite book every night than a new one because it’s familiar.
- Do some gentle stretching with your kid (be sure not to get her wound up and crazy) right before bedtime. A few gentle stretches and poses may help your kid unwind and relax her tired muscles.
- Teach your child calming techniques so the worries of the day – or about tomorrow’s test – don’t interfere with his sleeping. If your child has a tendency to worry, ensure homework is done at least one hour before bedtime and that he has a chance to ask you to proofread it. The earlier homework is completed, the more opportunity he has to ask you for help and the less worried he will be during the night. Create a nightly study routine and stick to it!
- If your child comes out of her room after you’ve put her to bed, walk her back and gently but firmly remind her that it’s bedtime.
I wish you good luck and sweet dreams tonight!
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