For some parents, it’s a seemingly harmless word that nevertheless can strike fear into hearts.
Some children seem to gain a special kind of hyper and defiant energy when told to prepare for bed. As the first day of school approaches, getting children to bed for a solid night’s sleep is critical, but the amount of sleep needed varies by age. The National Sleep Foundation recommends for preschool children (11-13 hrs), school age children (10 -11 hrs) and for adolescents (9 ¼ hrs). Daytime sleepiness can result in hyperactivity, inattentiveness and aggression. Having energy during the school day can make a monumental difference.
First things first: take a deep breath. You can do this!
For children with Autism, sleep problems are very common. The two most prevalent challenges are difficulty falling asleep and repeated awakenings throughout the night. Some medications may have a detrimental impact on a child being able to fall asleep or stay asleep. Before putting your child on any new medications, ask your doctor about possible nighttime side effects. If you are currently dealing with these issues, ask your doctor if it may be because of medication.
Start your school year off by establishing a bedtime routine both you and your child can depend on.
- Exercise during the day can make it easier for a child to fall asleep. Try to avoid any intensive physical activities close to bedtime, which can have the opposite effect.
- Avoid caffeine close to bedtime. Be aware of any beverages your child is consuming which could be harboring caffeine, including tea, soda, and chocolate.
- Your child’s sleep environment is critical. It should be calm, dark, and cool. Be aware of any possible toys or distractions in the environment.
- Create a predictable routine. Perhaps a bath, listening to music, or reading a book. The use of electronic devices immediately before bedtime can make it more difficult to fall asleep.
- Teach your child to fall asleep alone. For many parents, this can be the most difficult challenge, as you want to comfort a distressed child. Stay with your child before bedtime but leave before they fall asleep. If needed, only return to their room for reassurances, and leave shortly thereafter.
This bedtime routine can be a special time for you and your child to unwind, relax, and bond. It won’t always go perfectly, of course, but don’t let temporary discouragement keep you from getting back on track. Now, let’s get to sleeping!