What Time Does Your Child Go To Bed?
This is might be a very simple question but you’d be surprised to find out that not many parents insist on proper bedtime for their children. It is also surprising because you would think that
parents would be eager to put their children to bed and have a few minutes to themselves!

Why is it important to schedule proper bedtime for children
Quite apart from the advantage for parents, a regular bedtime for children is very important because of its effect on their behavioral development. A properly scheduled bedtime helps children develop positive behaviors, regulate themselves, and function properly at home and in the school. There are several studies, which have looked into the relationship between irregular sleep times and behavior problems in young children. Some studies show that the more irregular a child’s bedtime is, the more likely the child will end up with negative long-term behavior such as: throwing tantrums, inability to control their tempter, even the ability to keep still and be attentive enough to learn.

A proper sleep routine is tied to the circadian rhythm. This rhythm or pattern is an internal (biological) the clock that runs constantly, cycling between alertness and sleepiness. It is also known as the sleep-wake cycle because it helps regulate sleep patterns which is necessary for both physical and mental development. This natural rhythm is easily disrupted if proper bedtime is not followed.
In children, it is even more delicate because their physical and mental functions are very easily disrupted. Children who do not have a
properly scheduled bedtime also end up getting less and lower quality sleep. If something is not done to ensure proper sleep patterns, it can leave lasting effects on brain development that can last into later life.

Regular bedtime helps ensure that the child has enough sleep to help the brain mature. The good news is that even if you are a parent who has not been sticking to proper bedtime for your children, the negative effects of an unstructured bedtime can be reversed. So how can you start regulating your child’s sleep? How many hours of sleep does a child need?

How do you start regulating your child’s sleep time?
Identify the number of hours that your child needs to sleep based on the recommended number of sleep hours based on age. While there is no hard and fast rule, according to The American Academy of Sleep
Medicine, children of different ages need a different amount of sleep:
 4 to 12 months — 12 to 16 hours
 1 to 2 years — 11 to 14 hours
 3 to 5 years — 10 to 13 hours
 6 to 12 years — 9 to 12 hours
 13 to 18 years — 8 to 10 hours

Sleep Training Babies
The easiest time to start sleep training your child is when they are babies. Be observant, watch out for signs that your baby is drowsy. For instance, when drowsy, some babies rub their eyes, others are restless, while some keep staring at nothing in particular. A really obvious sign is when they yawn. Set the baby down in a quiet dark room as soon as you notice that she is sleepy. You might need to rock the baby or hum a lullaby to help her relax when you first lay her down. A very important aspect of sleep training babies is to set the baby down while the child is drowsy but still awake. It almost goes against logic but studies show that it helps the child adjust to sleeping time if he learns to fall asleep in bed rather than in the parent’s arms.

Toddlers and Older children
There are two basic things that will help you succeed in training your child for bedtime:

1) Consistency: it is important to keep to the same bedtime once you start.
Once you have determined how many hours of sleep your child needs every night, decide what time they go to bed. This might mean that you adjust meal times so as to give you adequate time to prepare the child for bed without changing the bedtime. If you have children of different ages, it is advisable for them to all have the same bedtime so that you can go through whatever bedtime routines you put in place together. Be ready for the slightly older child to kick against going to bed at the same time with the younger sibling!
Of course, once in a while, you might be unable to get them to go to bed at their normal time. Don’t let this derail you. Just get back to putting them to bed at a normal time. If you have been consistent with bedtime for any length of time, the likelihood is that on the days when you cannot get them to bed at the normal time, they will start nodding off when their body clock clicks in!

2) The second important thing to do is to have a bedtime plan or routine.
Once you decide to train your child or children for bedtime, sit down and draw a plan of activities that you will perform with them every night that will lead to putting them to bed. The reason for this is so that psychologically, the child/children programed to know that after going through certain actions, the next thing is sleep. A well planned and carried out bedtime routine is a way of giving their body clock a sign to wind down. A simple routine for a toddler could be A) changing the diaper B) reading to the baby while he’s lying in bed, tucking him and a
goodnight kiss.

Other items that could be on your bedtime routine list depending on the child’s age are:
 Stop the child from watching TV, playing video games, etc. about 30 minutes before bedtime. This will help the brain to relax from the intensity of focusing on the bright screen.
 putting on pajamas
 teeth brushing
 a last drink of water
 potty time (especially for children who are being nighttime potty trained! Check out my posts on Potty Training)
 Reading a book, telling a story and or signing. (Sharing a bedtime prayer for those who are religious)
 getting tucked into bed with a favorite cuddly toy or blankie!
 hugs and bedtime kisses
 lights out (you might need to invest in a nightlight. Some children will need one to help adjust).

It might take a few days or weeks to get the child to adjust. It is however well worth the effort because children with inconsistent bedtimes can develop behavioral problems like emotional outbursts and hyperactivity. So for the sake of your child/children’s wellbeing please make the commitment to regularize their sleep time and stick with it.

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