Bedtime...But Mom I'm Not Tired!
We all remember how we felt, growing up, when
Mom called out, "Bedtime!" each night. We resented it. She just picked a time
out of thin air, we thought, and made us go to bed, whether we were tired or
not. We knew we had a good hour or two left in us, to play or read or watch TV,
before we felt the first twinges of sleepiness. We thought we were old enough to
decide for ourselves when it was time to sleep, and Mom was making it up when
she said, "You need your sleep". "Oh, yeah? Then how come you and Dad stay up
Nowadays, many of us are more lenient about
sending our kids to bed. We think that our parents were living in the dark ages,
setting those arbitrary bedtimes for the sake of exerting power over us. We're
much more enlightened-after all, left to their own devices, kids will get the
sleep they need, right? Well, maybe not.
According to the National Sleep Foundation, parents today tend to focus on
making their children's waking lives as fulfilling as possible, while they
ignore the "forgotten country" of sleep. The result is a large number of
children today with sleep-deprivation problems.
Based on a number of studies, it turns out that our parents were right. Kids,
especially younger kids, need large amounts of sleep, whether they think they
want it or not. In fact, up until the age of five, twelve hours of sleep,
including daytime naps, is the optimum for many children.
Many kids, especially toddlers, will fight their imposed bedtimes, while many
parents make the mistake of believing that, if they let their kids stay up
later, they'll fall asleep more easily. The opposite is often true-the more
tired kids get, the harder it is for many of them to fall asleep. And, once they
do nod off, their sleep is often more restless.
According to the National Institutes of Health, a child who doesn't get
necessary sleep can display a variety of problems throughout the day, including
lack of concentration in school, lack of performance in extra-curricular
activities, memory lapses, accidents or injuries, and behavioral problems. Many
sleep-deprived kids show signs of hyperactivity-rather than lethargy-which can
lead to misdiagnoses of other problems, such as ADHD (Attention
So what can parents do to get their kids to bed?
One of the most effective strategies is to
make bedtime a ritual, and make your kids partners in the decision-making
process. Once the parent has set the bedtime, let the child choose which
pajamas to wear, which stuffed animals to sleep with, or which story to hear
before the lights go out.
Make evening a relaxing time. Too much
activity can get kids too wound-up to sleep easily. Avoid caffeine and large
meals close to bedtime. Baths can be help kids wind down and relax.
Keep your child's bedroom dark and remove
televisions and computers; these are distractions which can tempt kids to
stay awake, even when they're truly tired.
Our moms may not have had the advantage of
numerous scientific sleep studies to rely on, but they weren't just making up
facts out of thin air when they insisted that kids need their sleep. They really
by By J Gardener
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