It’s well-established that when kids experience good sleep, it promotes growth, mental well-being, cognitive development, and immunity. Naturally, you want this for your child. However, expecting your kids to suddenly go to bed earlier ought to be paired with the expectation of whining and stalling as a response. Your teen may gladly retreat to their room, but not with the intent of going to sleep.
Blame it on the sun, who also stays up late during the summer or the alarm clock with no reason to be set. Either way, when summer break ends, sleep schedules have shifted from the school night routine to no routine. And no routine often leads to inadequate sleep. What’s a parent to do?
- Gradually establish an earlier bedtime by adjusting in 10 – 15 minute increments. You may find a written sleep schedule helpful for communicating expectations with your child (and keeping you on track).
- Practice “ignoring”. Yes, whining will push your buttons, but ignoring it and standing your ground on bedtime expectations will eventually result in the desired behavior. Become more resilient to “button-pushing” with mindfulness practices.
- Keep bedtime rituals consistent. Remember Pavlov’s learning theory called conditioned reflex where dogs consistently responded to a bell? Similarly, our bedtime routines can act as the stimulus preparing our mind for sleep.
- Establish a family media plan. Electronic media (t.v.’s, smart phones, internet, computer games) are major contributors to poor sleep patterns. By having a media plan, you set time and usage boundaries so electronics are less likely to affect sleep quantity.
Setting the Mood
- Good sleep includes QUALITY. Light, temperature and noise can interrupt sleep. Assess your child’s room to determine which of these may be a problem. Curtains, fans, or white noise may be in order.
- Nightmares can wake children. If so, prompt your child to talk, draw or journal about their dream. Then, ask how they would change the dream to create a happy ending. It’s a way to take control and reduce the fear that prevents sleep.
- Reserve being in bed for sleep and nothing more.
- Daily physical activity may help improve sleep quality. This is especially important for teens as they begin to experience changes in circadian rhythm and heightened stress. Physical activity not only promotes sleep but also helps reduce stress. Try making it a fun, whole-family activity!