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A full, restful night of sleep can mean the difference between a happy child and a crabby one, no matter what their age. But do you know that sleep deprivation in children can manifest as hyperactivity, clumsiness, and lack of focus? Ensuring that your child is well-rested is integral to his health, wellness, and development. Hence, it is important to create healthy sleeping habits in your child from early on. And whatever your parenting style, the rules for creating these habits tend to be the same. We have compiled a list of dos and don’ts of healthy sleeping practices for kids.
The Dos of Healthy Sleeping Practices
1. Establish a consistent routine.
Believe it or not, children love a routine. Having set nap-times and bedtime will teach them what to expect and when. Having predictable routines will help them feel secure, can lead to better self-control, and encourage independence.
2. Stay calm.
Sleep times, whether for naps or for the night should be a loving, peaceful time. At bedtime, your little one may get all energetic and may throw a fuss when you try to put him to sleep, but if you handle the situation (and your child) with anger or frustration, your child will develop fear and anxiety. He may either get afraid of you and pretend to sleep or become rebellious. If your child is not sleeping, take deep breaths, use a calm voice, and step away for a moment if your child is upset. Approach him again with a gentle tone and explain the benefits of sleeping. If you remain composed and talk politely to your child, he is more likely to listen to you and more importantly obey you.
3. Offer something that makes your child feel secure.
Allow your little one to have a ‘safety’ item such as a blanket or toy. These items are to be used during nap-time or bedtime only. Limit these safety nets to one or two items and not their entire toy collection.
4. Incorporate wind down time.
An hour or so before bedtime, it is important for your child to wind down. Much like how you might enjoy a good book at bedtime, your child can benefit from reading as well. Dim the lights, tuck your little one into bed and read stories, play soft music, or sing lullabies.
5. Stick to the plan.
Do your best to keep your child in bed once you tuck him in and complete your winding down. If he gets up, quietly walk him into his room and tuck him back in. If your child cries for you, go in and give him a reassuring pat. Do not pick him up and do not speak. Once you engage him, you open the door for more questions, demands, or cries. You may have to tuck him in several times but eventually, he will stay put and fall asleep.
The Don’ts of Healthy Sleeping Practices
1. Don’t keep your child’s toy on his bed.
As mentioned above, do not fill your little one’s bed with toys as they will only distract him and can greatly hinder the quality of his sleep. It is important to establish his bed as a place for rest and sleep, not play.
2. Do not establish negative associations.
Never use bedtime as a threat or punishment. As we mentioned above, you want bedtime to be a positive experience for your child.
3. Do not give any snack.
If your little one likes a pre-bedtime snack make sure to avoid foods that contain caffeine or sugar, as they might affect his quality of sleep. No ice cream, no flavoured yoghurt, no cookies.
4. Do not offer aerated beverages.
If your little one is thirsty or likes to have something to drink at night, give water. Do not give sugary foods, juice, soda, or other sugary beverages, as they might impact his sleep.
5. Do not let him watch TV.
Turn off screens at least an hour before bedtime and never allow your little one to watch something on television or use a smartphone or tablet before bedtime. Screentime before bedtime can stimulate the brain and make it difficult for your child to fall asleep.
Establishing healthy bedtime habits can be difficult, especially if you’re starting from scratch with an older child. Just like with adults, replacing a bad habit with a good one takes time. But if you’re determined, you can establish a healthy sleeping routine for your child and ensure that he follows it too!
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