1. Avoid having your children drink caffeinated beverages including chocolate and soda, especially from the afternoon on.
2. Teach your children self-soothing skills; relaxation techniques to help them unwind physically and emotionally. Progressive relaxation, an awareness of breathing, and creative visualization are particularly effective and are an important component of The Floppy Sleep Game Book and my recordings.
3. Exercise should be a part of your child's day, but vigorous activity should not be done too close to bedtime. In contrast, gentle stretching before bed can relieve tension and help children to fall asleep.
4. Tell your child 5- 10 minutes before their bedtime routine begins so they can finish what they're doing.
5. Make sure there is a quiet period before bed. Active play just before bedtime can leave children excited and hinder their ability to fall asleep. Limit television and video game playing, as well as an especially exciting book before bed.
6. Have a regular bedtime routine that could include a warm bath, brushing teeth, reading, singing, or prayers. Allow plenty of time for a relaxed bedtime routine. School age children may find it particularly helpful to talk about their concerns or worries before bed. Afterwards, make a ceremony out of putting their worries away for the night.
7. Set a consistent bedtime and make it the same time every night.
8. Make sure your children are comfortable. Try to take care of their needs so they have no reason to get out of bed. Make sure your child has given everyone hugs and kisses and that he or she is comfortable. Your child may like to have a night-light on, the door slightly open, or a drink of water. Check the temperature in your child's room. Clothes should not restrict movement.
9. Some children find it comforting to sleep with a favorite item, such as a stuffed animal or blanket.
10. Leave your children's room while they're awake so they learn to settle themselves, a perfect time for them to listen to my relaxation CDs. Try not to return to your child's room each time he or she calls out. If you give in to your son or daughter's bedtime requests, he or she will learn that bedtime is not really bedtime. When your child calls to you, try the following:
* Wait before answering, thereby giving your child the opportunity to fall asleep on his or her own.
* Reassure your child that you are near-by. If you need to go into his or her room, give little attention and don't stay too long.
* Move farther from you child's bed every time you reassure him or her, until you can do it verbally without going into his or her room.
Toddlers and preschoolers are creatures of habit. Even if they have slept well before, a vacation, move, or illness, can throw them off their routine. If they come into your room in the middle of the night, get up and walk them back to bed, giving as little attention as possible. Preschoolers need to have their bedtime rules strictly enforced. They will soon learn that they can get away with staying up longer by requesting just one more story, song, or drink of water. My daughter learned that I found it almost irresistible to turn down just one last kiss. Be strong and consistent! Remember you are not being mean, you are teaching your child good sleep habits that will last a lifetime. Bedtime fears are especially common in this age group. (See bedtime fears under the sleep problems section).
One of the best ways to determine how much sleep your child is getting, at any age, is to keep a sleep journal. If you suspect your baby or child isn't getting enough sleep, keep a sleep journal. For two weeks, record the time your child goes to bed and rises, the amount of time it takes him or her to drift off, total hours of sleep and energy level on waking and throughout the day. (Also note any naps your child may take or times when he or she inadvertently falls asleep.) The results can help you pinpoint a sleep problem. The majority of sleep problems are behavioral and are due to poor sleep habits. However, your sleep journal will help you to recognize a more serious problem and your observations will be invaluable in helping your physician to diagnose the problem and map out a plan.
Children who are sleep deprived are likely to have health, learning, and behavioral problems. Although everyone recognizes that when a 2 year old has a tantrum, he is most likely overly tired, parents and teachers have forgotten to look at behavior and take sleep into account with older children.
Symptoms of sleep deprivation:
• Unmanageable behavior: (grumpy, excitable, wild)
• Inattentive, unable to concentrate, easily distracted, physically impulsive or alternately lazy
•"Wired behavior" is often shown before the sleep crash when a child is overly tired
• Trouble concentrating and remembering material that is taught at school.
•Decreased immunity- Even one bad night's sleep can hamper immunity. During sleep, the body releases an immune- boosting substance.
Sleep is definitely related to our children's' ability to learn. Teachers are often not aware of the direct ways a lack of sleep can keep students from remembering what they've been taught during the day. A full night's sleep is one of the most important factors for learning and is probably the most important period of the day for processing new information. A good night's sleep lets children process what they learn and helps them to be alert in class.
Recently, researchers found that if the brain can't rest long enough and deeply enough to move information from temporary to long-term memory, the information is lost forever. Many sleep specialists now believe that as much as half of the new information gleaned during the day can be lost by lack of sleep at night. Sleep helps organize the brain. Our kids really do wake up smarter when they've had a good night's sleep. The best homework assignment a teacher could give would be to have their students get a good night's sleep. Time would be better spent going to sleep on time rather than staying up late, completing homework. I'd like to see gold stars given to children who go to sleep at an appropriate time.
Children have vivid imaginations and bedtime fears are common, especially for preschoolers. It's a good idea to talk with your child about their fears in the daytime. Assure your child that you have strong locks, smoke alarms, a dog, etc. Some of the most common children’s fears (or phobias) are of monsters, dogs, snakes, and spiders. Talk to your children about their fears in the daytime. Read "playful" stories about the objects they fear. Sing songs about them. If a child thinks there is a monster under his or her bed, look under the bed and show him or her that there is no monster there. Tell a story where your child is the hero, facing the monster who shrinks before his or her very eyes. Draw a picture of the monster and crumple it up. Tell your children that when scary thoughts come, to put on the "good tape" in their heads and watch it. Encourage your children to tell you about their fears and acknowledge them, even if they're not real. Otherwise, they might keep their fears inside and they could become worse. Talk about what is real and what is make believe. Eventually, children will make the distinctions themselves and the monster under the bed just won't be there anymore.
Experts recommend leaving your children's room while they are still awake so they learn to settle themselves. If your child is accustomed to falling asleep with your assistance, the "fade technique" may be helpful. The "fade technique" involves gradually removing yourself from your child's room. At first, you may want to sit on the edge of the bed while they relax themselves to sleep. (This is a good time for them to listen to The Floppy Sleep Game, The Inside-Out Blessing Game, or The Christmas Dream. A systematic program is also included in The Floppy Sleep Game Book).
Over a period of several days, sit further and further from your son or daughter until they no longer need you in the room to fall asleep. This is a difficult time for parents because they are tired and vulnerable. Remember, it may take a week or two to retrain your child and the behavior will probably get worse before it gets better. Expect to be tested; at every stage of reduction of parental attention problems are likely to get worse (for a short time) before improvement begins. Don't give up! It will be worth the effort when the whole family is getting a good night's sleep. Night waking is normal; children need to learn to fall back asleep without assistance.
Nightmares usually happen during the second half of the night. That's when dreaming is the most intense, during longer periods of REM sleep. Children may wake up and call to you. They may be fearful and have trouble falling asleep because they can remember their troubling dream. Occasional nightmares are common; however, if nightmares occur frequently and persistently for more than a month, seek professional help. Often, night terrors are mistaken by parents as nightmares.
As soon as possible, go to your child. Assure your child that you're there and won't let anything harm him or her. Calm and comfort your son or daughter. He or she may wish to have a night-light on for reassurance. Encourage your child to tell you what happened in his or her dream; it is very real to a young child. Encourage your child to go back to sleep as soon as he or she is calm.
Night terrors can be very frightening for parents. Unlike nightmares that happen in the second half of the night, they usually occur one to four hours after a child falls asleep and can last 5-30 minutes. Often the child experiencing a night terror is thrashing and confused. He or she may walk around in an agitated state or be angry and frantic. While a child is having a night terror, don't wake him or her. Keep the lights dim. If you try to wake him or her, it may get worse. Unlike nightmares, the child has no memory of the night terror. They are more likely to occur if close family members have a similar history of arousals. Two of my children had night terrors when they were about three years old. They often occurred during their naptime, especially if they were awakened abruptly. When a friend's preschooler had a night terror, she took her to the emergency room. I have since learned that this is not an uncommon reaction for parents. Night terrors often occur in overly tired children and sometimes, but not always, an earlier bedtime helps. In young children they do not signify physical or emotional problems. If they continue after age six, seek advice from a sleep specialist.
Bedwetting is a minor sleep disorder but it can be very upsetting and embarrassing to older children. Heredity is a strong contributing factor. Don't criticize or punish; children generally wet the bed while they are asleep and have no knowledge that they are doing it. Work with you child's pediatrician, or with a sleep specialist to treat it if it becomes emotionally upsetting to your child.
This is a medical condition that can appear at any age but frequently develops in the pre-school years. Children with sleep apnea are often tired even though they appear to get enough sleep at night. Snoring, mouth breathing, restless sleep, nighttime sweating, difficulty waking, and sleeping in unusual positions are signs of obstructive sleep apnea. The main symptom is daytime exhaustion from poor quality sleep and it may be the only symptom you see. This is a medical condition. If you suspect your child is suffering from sleep apnea, consult your pediatrician. Removing the adenoids and or tonsils often cures it.
The main symptom of narcolepsy is excessive drowsiness. Many other factors can also cause excessive drowsiness such as illness, or medication. If your child is excessively sleepy, start with your pediatrician. Although it can affect children, it typically doesn't appear until the mid teens. Other symptoms may include sudden attacks of weakness during the day and temporary paralysis while falling asleep or waking. The treatment includes naps and medication. A sleep specialist should diagnose and treat it.
More children than ever before are being diagnosed with special needs “neurobiological disorders” such as ADHD, clinical depression, bipolar disorder, sensory integration dysfunction, autism and Aspergers Syndrome. Children with these disorders are likely to have sleep difficulties. In addition, the problems that characterize the disorders will be greatly exacerbated by a lack of sleep. My years as a special education teacher have shown me that it’s not easy for children with special challenges, nor is it easy for their parents. While all children do best with healthy sleep habits, it’s even more imperative for a child with special needs. In general, the same bedtime rules apply—only more so. (The Floppy Sleep Game Book discusses neurobiological disorders in more detail, giving specific tips, and discussing supplements).
The symptoms of sleep deprivation and the symptoms of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder can appear the same. They show up in 3 categories:
1. Attention Problems
2. Difficulty controlling impulsive responses
3. Excessive motor activity
Not every child diagnosed with ADHD is sleep deprived or vice versa, however, the amount of sleep a child is getting should certainly be considered as a factor; keeping a sleep journal can be an effective tool. The issue of sleep deprivation versus ADHD is not simple. I have worked with many ADHD children and I do believe that some children who are sleep deprived may be being misdiagnosed as ADHD.
Remember, most adults who are tired will yawn and nod, but children often go to the other extreme, bouncing around, unable to concentrate, losing interest quickly, and behaving as if they have attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. It's tricky; because ADHD children also have a higher incidence of sleep disorders. I know that progressive relaxation and creative visualization work to calm and relax children. Teachers have often told me that the children who are the most active, respond best to these techniques. I believe these techniques should be the first line of defense when dealing with a diagnosis of hyperactivity or ADHD. And while sleep deprivation will increase ADHD symptoms, adequate sleep will reduce them—even if a child has been diagnosed correctly.
If your child or teen seems depressed or alternates between sleeping too much and not enough, or has extreme mood changes, it could signal depression or a mood or anxiety disorder and you should take your child to see a specialist.