BY ANDREW MCDONALD
THE BATTLE to get your kids to sleep is well-known to most parents. It’s a natural part of growing up when children test boundaries and bedtime is one of the biggest. However, Mums and Dads know the importance of getting a good night’s shut-eye, particularly with school back. So what do you do when your son or daughter is pushing the limits of what you think is an appropriate time for them to nod off?
Particularly prevalent with teens, but common with younger children too, is “social jet lag”. This has nothing to do with their relationships with friends. It is caused by the habit of kids to sleep later on a weekend than during the week. Many teenagers, and little ones, on a Friday and Saturday go to bed at a time which bears no resemblance to their weekday schedule, sleeping till or even past lunchtime the next day. This shifts their body clocks, often significantly. Without having travelled anywhere, they’re basically living in a different time zone on non-school days making it more difficult to get to sleep early on Sunday – Thursday nights.
Of course, later bedtimes at weekends is normal. Good luck trying to tell your child they need to go to bed at the same time seven days a week! That aside, it’s worth keeping that extension within reasonable limits so your teen doesn’t find it impossible to get to sleep early enough on a weekday. Equally key is not letting your son or daughter snooze too late on a Saturday and Sunday morning.
Another good idea is avoiding screen time, and this includes the television, for at least an hour before heading to bed. This is a good idea for parents and other adults too. In simple terms, your body creates more melatonin, the sleep hormone, when it gets dark. By using phones, laptops and televisions within 60 minutes of going to bed, you’re sending your brain the message that it’s still daytime due to the light from these sources thus depleting your body of this natural chemical.
A relaxation routine can encourage good sleep too. For that last hour of the day, instead of using screens, your whole family could get together to listen to soothing music, meditate, practise yoga or any other activity which encourages you to unwind. Not only will this help your child get enough shut eye, it will help you as well!
Getting a good night’s sleep is a battle for all of us at times. No matter how many good bedtime habits you put in place, sometimes things just won’t go your child’s way. However, by establishing good patterns, you can help your son or daughter to get those much-needed hours of shut-eye and make bedtime a breeze.