Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Good Nights: Getting Back on Schedule

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Getting back into a night time routine after several weeks of holiday festivities (late nights followed by late mornings) can be difficult. The National Sleep Foundation recommends a number of sleep tips for school-aged children.

Teach school-aged children about healthy sleep habits. It's been hard for me to return to my pre-holiday routine. We've passed around a virus, had snowy weather, and been celebrating a birthday--nothing to encourage getting back to life as usual! However, the best way to teach, of course, is by example. Are you getting the rest you need? Do you have a regular bedtime routine? Your child needs to see you relaxing and implementing your own nightly wind-down in order to truly know how important sleep is.

Continue to emphasize the need for regular and consistent sleep schedule and bedtime routine. A checklist on a dry-erase board cuts down on mom’s nagging and puts the responsibility for homework, bath, and bedtime directly on the child. Bedtimes and wake times should be consistent from Saturday night through Thursday, with Friday being the one exception for staying up late and Saturday the one exception for waking late.

Make the child’s bedroom conducive to sleep – dark, cool, and quiet. Keep TV and computers out of the bedroom. The National Sleep Foundation found that children with a television in their bedrooms go to sleep almost 20 minutes later and sleep less overall than their peers without a TV in the bedroom. This adds up to a loss of more than two hours of sleep a week. (There are other non-sleep-related reasons for not allowing a TV in your child's room. Not only does it encourage isolation from the rest of the family, it promotes unsupervised viewing habits.)

Avoid caffeine. Caffeine is a stimulant. According to the National Sleep Foundation, children who drink a caffeinated beverage sleep less than those who do not (9.1 vs. 9.7 hrs/night), a loss of about 3.5 hours a week. And that can add up to one cranky kid! :)

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