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Instigating good bedtime habits in children

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“ I HATE seeing children awake in the night once it’ss 8 O’clock and above”, says Chibuike. As if this is not enough, another person narrated her own ordeal. “Ma’am, your child always sleeps in the class. I must tell you it is affecting his academics. While  as his teacher, I will be teaching, shouting to impart on them, he will be busy sleeping and it has been happening over and over. Even when you ask him to stand or walk about as others were still busy with their lessons, you notice his dizziness. That is why he finds it very difficult to cope in his studies and that has kept me wondering. When I asked him what his problem is, he said he doesn’t go to bed on time…   So i decided to invite you over to intimate you about the ugly situation because if you should allow it yo continue, it will continue affecting his academic performance and lots more”, complained a teacher to one of his pupil’s mother.

   Sleeping is an essential part of everyone’s routine and an indispensable part of a healthy lifestyle. Early in life, a person experiences development that affects the brain, body, emotions, and behavior and sets the stage for their continued growth through childhood and adolescence.

   Studies have shown that kids who regularly get an adequate amount of sleep have improved attention, behaviour, quick learning capacity, good memory, sound mental and physical health. Not getting enough sleep can lead to high blood pressure, laziness or regular weakness, obesity and even depression. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends the amount of sleep a child should get depending on their ages. According to them, infants under the age of one  year should have a sleep of 12-16 hours, and children under 1-2 years old have 11-14 hours.

  Furthermore, those at the age of 3-5 years old are to have at least 10-13 hours while the ones at the age of 6-12 years old 9-12 hours, whereas teenagers of 13-18 years old enjoy 8-10 hours sleep before daylight. They further noted that the above ranges are broad recommendations and an hour more or less can be appropriate for some children.

  When it comes to children’s attitude toward sleeping habit, one of the most frequent concerns from parents is how to get them to bed on time every night. Nearly every parent has had to deal with the difficulty of putting a child to bed at some point and for a lot of parents, bedtime is a recurring nightmare. It seems strange that kids require much more sleep than adults do, yet many resist going to sleep with every fiber in their bodies. This can cause a strain on both parents and children and lead to poor sleep for everybody in the household.

  While trying to find out the reason behind the ugly behaviour among children, some pediatrician explain that lack of exercise, sunlight and socialisation, excessive engagement on technology gadget, dark rooms, depression, anxiety and poor diets wreaked havoc on children’s sleep habits. ” Some people may feel as if they have gotten back to normal, this is not the case. Honestly, terrible habits have taken root in many homes, leaving parents feeling frustrated, exhausted and hopeless.

  Truth be told, you as a parent can still get your little child to go to sleep on time. It is not going to be by force but in a gentle way and manner otherwise, it becomes disastrous. A medical expert, Tony Wart, stressed that this might sound hopeless. “It isn’t. The first step to moving the needle toward healthier sleep habits is to accept the reality in front of all. As children age, their sleep habits change. One of the main reasons parents suffer is that we struggle with typical developmental growth, and we want things to stay the same. Bedtime works until it doesn’t, and we fight, kick and try to drag our children back in time. We have to stop doing that.

  The second step to establishing good sleep habits with your growing children is to work with them, not against them. Will there be reminding, nagging and some occasional threatening of consequences? Yes, because you are human. But, as much as possible, you should try to work with them to create routines that will work for everyone.

  However, I need to clear you about this: The outcomes will never make you totally happy. This is one of those parenting issues, like getting children to eat vegetables and fruits that are there until they leave. As you age, you get more tired in the evenings. As children grow older, they want to stay up later. This is tough, so work with them to get the best result you can.

  Before working on a solution together, get serious about one topic like the technology. We know that the blue light, endless gaming and rewards of social media create temptation, which will always trump good intentions and, therefore, sleep.

  If you don’t do this already, make sure technology like television leaves your children’s bedrooms by a certain hour every night. You may have homework issues, gaming arguments and more, but as long as you can, hold the line against all technology being charged in their rooms or parlour. Your children will make persuasive arguments about alarms, homework and friends needing to game with or text them, and they will also let you know that, “their friend’s parents allow them to have access on theirs. Do your best to stay strong while acquiescing to other demands. The longer you can keep technology out of their bedrooms or sight, the better sleep your children will have.

  As for ever-changing and extended bedtimes, commit to having family meetings where you all can hash this out. Lights-out times can be established at these meetings, but be ready for these rules to change, such as during holiday breaks or summer vacation.

  And although sleep experts will recommend you keep your sleep and awake times the same every day, I haven’t met any child or youth waking up from his or her bed as early as 7 a.m. on weekends. This is not a battle I would take on, but you can try it (at your own risk).

  What is important is that you co-create bedtime rules, because you need their buy-in to make it work. You may prefer for them to go to bed earlier, and they may argue for later, but as long as you come to some kind of compromise, their bedtimes will work (fairly well)”.

  Moreover, “ensure they engage themselves in exercises because it does help in their physical and rapid growth. This in most cases can easily make them wind down quicker at night. If they do then keep their last playtime at least three hours before bedtime or they may still be too stimulated for sleep”.

  Aside that, parents should be mindful of the kind of meal they serve their wards because it can affect them negatively or positively. Most especially, they should endeavour to avoid meals and caffeine before bedtime to enable them have their sleep at the specific time you want them to. Why? Because, “caffeine is a stimulant and not very good for children at all. It stimulates central nervous system, and can make one  feel more awake. It upset the stomach and causes heartburn. Another reason why is not healthy for children is because it result to frequent urination. So, with this your child cannot have a quality and smooth sleep. Therefore, parents should avoid any meal or food having something to do with caffeine otherwise your aim will be aborted”.

   In the other hand, “if you do allow your child the occasional soft drink, make sure that they don’t have any drinks containing sugar and caffeine within three hours of bedtime. Snacks are perfectly acceptable before bedtime as long as they’re healthy and not very filling. If your child asks for food or drink before bedtime, give them a light healthy snack such as fruits or a warm water”.

  However, “if you have established a consistent bedtime routine and made adjustments to fit your child’s individual needs and they are still having difficulties with sleeping, that means your child may have a sleep disorder. Keep a close eye on both your child’s nighttime sleeping behaviours and patterns as well as how they function during the day. If they are chronically tired during the day, have difficulty concentrating on homework, or have behavioural problems at home or school, it could be a sign of an underlying sleep disorder. If you suspect that your child may have a sleep disorder, talk with your child’s pediatrician about their sleep habits, or schedule an appointment with a sleep specialist to guide you on the best way out”.

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