I remember when my kids were toddlers, they would be in bed and asleep by 7:30 p.m. every night. It was great. My husband and I had time to watch movies together and get caught up on our days. In the morning, my kids were rested and ready to go. However, the older they get, the later and later they stay up. There are lots of nights when I fall asleep before they do. Since it’s summer, it’s not a big problem since they can sleep in. However, soon it’s back-to- school time and it will be a different story.
If you are like me and worry that your nocturnal child won’t get enough sleep once school starts, we have some good news. There are several simple steps you can take to get your kids drifting off at a reasonable hour (and you’ll have time in the evening to hang with your partner and catch up on your shows again!)
Why is your child staying up so late?
There are many reasons why kids stay up late. Biologically, preteens’ and teens’ bodies are wired to fall asleep later then when they were little. The hormones that come with puberty affect their natural sleep cycle which makes it difficult to fall asleep early. They are wired to fall asleep around 11 or midnight and sleep until 8:00 or 9:00 a.m. However, this is not possible with school schedules.
How can I help my child get the sleep they need?
1. Make sure they are getting time in the sun each day. This time of year it should be easy to accomplish. Increased sunlight helps the body reset it’s internal clock and produce melatonin at the right times of day to encourage sleep. Go for a walk together, ride bikes, play tennis, whatever you enjoy. Not only will they be getting the sunlight they need, but you’ll have fun together too.
2. Limit screen time after dinner. In the evening, our bodies start increasing melatonin, which helps us fall asleep. When kids spend a lot of time on electronics before bed, the light from the screen tricks their brains into thinking it’s still daytime. Make sure your child’s body knows that it is night time and help them prepare for sleep.
3. Have a consistent bedtime. Just like when they were little, it’s good to have a bedtime routine. This helps the body know it’s time to sleep. A bath, some warm milk and a good book can help your child get ready for bed.
4. Limit caffeine in the afternoon and evening. Some kids are more sensitive to caffeine then others but notice when they have the most trouble sleeping and whether or not they drank caffeine that day.
5. Have a heart-to-heart. Often times kids are the most chatty at bedtime and need to talk about their day. Even though as parents we are tired, and ready for them to be in bed, talking through their feelings and thoughts can help them calm down for sleep.
5. Avoid doing homework or hanging out in bed. If your child has a really hard time going to sleep at night this can help train their brain that their bed is only a place for sleep.
If you are really worried about how little sleep your child is getting, talk to their doctor.
Hopefully with a few tweaks to their day, your child will be drifting off at a reasonable time and getting the sleep they need.
We’d love to hear from you. What challenges do you have getting your child to sleep? What’s worked for you? Hop on over to our Facebook page and we’d love to chat with you.