Spring is in the air, and isn't that wonderful?! I love, love, love spring. Tulips, heat from the sun, kids outside playing hockey or riding bikes, and the longer, brighter, sunnier days. I love it all.
However, last week I realized that as the days were getting longer, my kids' bedtime was getting later. "But the sun's still out!" was the complaint, so a few extra minutes here and there, what could it hurt?
Oh... it hurt. A few days of later bedtimes resulted in cranky, tired, whiny kids. No amount of sun and exercise is worth that.
The problem is that even though Mr. Sun is out to play longer now that spring is in the air, our kids still need the same amount of sleep. The Sleep Foundation has found that toddlers (ages one to two) need 11 to 14 hours of sleep per night, preschoolers (ages three to five) require 11 to 13 hours per night and school-aged kids (ages six to 11) need nine to 11 hours of sleep per night.
While the thought of letting your kids play outside in the fresh air is tempting with the hope that they'll sleep later in the morning (if they aren't old enough for school) is a lovely thought, most of us know that isn't the case. Kids seemingly get up at the same time in the morning no matter what time they go to sleep!
Sleep is so very important to our kids. Although there is some scientific confusion as to what happens to the brain during sleep, some scientists believe that during sleep the brain sorts information, replaces chemicals and solves problems. Lack of sleep can leave your kids tired, cranky, unable to make decisions. Lack of sleep can also affect growth and compromise your kids' immune system. So, sleep is essential to happy, healthy, strong children.
As the days grow longer, bedtime is going to get more difficult. Here are a few tips to help you get your kids to bed at their regular hour:
- Routine is routine. That goes for bedtime routine, as well. If you always bathe your kids or read books to them before bed, don't omit any part of your routine. It's called routine because it's expected. If you all of a sudden decide to let them play an extra 10 minutes but then skip reading books with them, they may find it more difficult to get to sleep. Routine is important.
- Keep your kids hydrated. A state of dehydration can affect your child's quality of sleep. Ensure that you have offered your kids water throughout the day to help combat chronic dehydration. This is even more important as temperatures start to rise and more time is spent outside. Keeping your kiddos hydrated throughout the days also helps reduce the "Mooooommy, I'm thirsty!" calls from doorways in the middle of the night.
- Buy blackout blinds. You can grab these blinds at most big box stores and they are life savers. Pull the blinds before your kids come in from play and prep their rooms so that it is dark and cozy.
- Cool down the bedroom. Your kids will be running a little hotter with all of the activity and play before bedtime, so try to make their bedroom cool and relaxing. Put a fan on them as they drift off to sleep, change over the flannel sheets for cool cotton and pull out the summer pyjamas. Try to give them no extra excuse to be up and about.
- Try to reduce outside noise as much as possible. As a kid there is little worse than being told to go to bed when you can hear your friends laughing and playing outside. I remember the feeling. A fan, closing the window, a white noise machine can help muffle those sounds and hopefully help your kids head off to dreamland.
- Aromatherapy. Finally, I'm a big fan of aromatherapy. I use "Dream Weaver" from Soulful Sister. I spray it above my kids' bed and pillow before they come in from outside and have the soothing and calming effects of lavender and chamomile filling their room as they put their jammies on. You can use any aromatherapy, just ask someone in the know. Dream Weaver is my favorite by far, though!
Good luck out there, mamas. Spring and summer can be full of fun, laughter and joym so please enjoy it! Just remember the importance of regular sleep for your kids with respect to brain development, rest, growth and immune response. It's incredibly important.
Also important... your alone time after your kids are in bed! Oh yeah... don't even get me started on that.
This article was previously published on lindsaygee.ca
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Falling asleep is a mind game. According to a 2003 study by University of Glasgow researchers, instead of lying in bed trying to fall asleep, lie in bed and try to stay awake. Forcing yourself to stay awake is exhausting and will therefore put you to sleep faster. But if that doesn’t work within 20 minutes, get out of bed, says Bustle. Staying in bed longer than that increases anxiety around not being able to fall asleep, which reinforces not being able to fall asleep. Go back to bed when you feel tired.
The blue light of computers, phones and tablets can trick your brain into thinking it’s still daylight outside. This in turn messes with your body’s rhythm and signals the brain to suppress melatonin. Melatonin is a hormone that basically sets your body in motion for sleep. The only technological interactions you should have on your bed in relation to sleep is a sleep tracker, if you want.
Increasing the intensity of your workout, or working out close to the end of the day could be affecting your sleep. High-intensity workouts could be causing acute fatigue in your muscles. And working out close to your bedtime could leave you feeling too wired and amped up to get to rest. Take note of your body - if you find yourself feeling more irritable or not feeling rested, it’s time to re-evaluate.
Sometimes you get the nighttime munchies and that’s okay — as long as you’re eating the right things (like cherries, milk or a protein). In fact, a pre-bedtime snack could stabilize your blood sugar and help you feel more rested as a result. But if you’re craving something sweet, salty or high-fat, you’re probably just sleepy. Also, avoid taking vitamins before bed because they could give you a little boost of energy.
Set a night routine and stick to it. This will train your brain to recognize each step as triggers for falling asleep, according to The Huffington Post U.S. Whatever it includes, be it brushing your teeth, washing your face or taking a shower, each step should be consistent every night. Things like preparing for the next day in terms of clothes and meals should be done well before the bedtime routine starts.
Take a few moments for quiet reflection. This can be as simple as thinking out the highs and lows of the day or some meditation but winding down your brain is important to releasing the stresses of the day and
Studies show that keeping a cool (about 18 degrees) and dark room is good for you and your sleep. Banish everything from your room that you can that isn't related to sleeping. Per HuffPost U.S., make your bed as inviting as possible, which means making your bed every morning and washing sheets every couple of weeks. Who doesn't love extra pillows too?
If you’re an eight hour-a-nighter, a five hour-a-nighter or a segmented sleeper find a sleep schedule that works for your body and your life. Most people need seven to nine hours of sleep a night. Once you've found your routine, stick to it and hold yourself accountable. Sleep is a vital part of good health and well-being, and you deserve it all.
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