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Bedtime Battles

Filed Under: Baby and Child Health at 9:15 am | By: Susan Coyle, Senior Editor
Child’s BedroomBeing told that most adults are sleep deprived is no surprise. After all, you’re living proof. You yawn your way through the morning, relying on frightening amounts of caffeine and sugar to remain awake. Your eyelids regularly droop during the evening commute, and you’ve yet to stay conscious through all of the 11 o’clock news. Therefore, you have no problem buying into the adult-sleep problem. However, being told that most children are sleep deprived is another matter. How could they, the balls of energy currently bouncing off the walls, singing at the top of their lungs and wreaking havoc, not be getting enough sleep? No creature can be that hyper yet need more shut eye. It can’t be possible . . .  but sadly, it is.

Children of all ages, from infancy on, fail to meet the minimum recommendations for sleep.  As a result, they are achieving poorer grades, becoming moodier and more depressed, and, yes it’s true, brimming with hyperactivity.   That giddy-tired feeling we’ve all experienced is a common side effect of childhood sleep deprivation, making their lack even more fun for you. And as the children age, the situation worsens.  Teenager’s bodies, schedules and internal clocks war with each other, rendering a good night’s sleep nearly impossible. The longer this habit lasts the worse it gets. By the time the children have become adults, they have learned to cope with too little sleep, but their bodies haven’t. The years of minimal shut eye weigh heavily on their health, beating down their persons, turning them into terminally drowsy individuals.

It’s important that you (while you still have control over their schedules) begin teaching your children positive sleep habits. That begins with identifying exactly how much they need. There are charts listing the average amounts of sleep children in varying age ranges require, but don’t become consumed by the numbers. All children are different. Some are short sleepers; some are long sleepers.  It will change from child to child even within families. Your oldest may not function without 10 solid hours, while your youngest may be raring to go after seven. As such, bedtimes should be adjusted. Forcing a short sleeper into bed too early, can make falling/staying asleep extremely difficult. However, once you do determine the time, varying as it may be between children, maintain it. Instituting a steady routine from the start will increase the likelihood that they’ll create their own schedule later on in life. Then, figure out what each child needs to drift off most easily. It may be soft music, total silence, complete darkness or a little light. Whatever the need, try to provide it. Illustrate how important a good night’s sleep is. Hopefully they’ll get the message, and their adulthood won’t be quite as drowsy as yours.

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