Parents of young children with sleep problems can very often get to the end of their tether with night after night of disturbed sleep. Just how should we define sleep problems – when my children were babies, I breastfed on demand which made life much easier for me – when they woke in the night, it was just a matter of lifting them out of the cot next to my bed, giving them a feed and nappy change and then settling back down for the rest of the night. My older child was born in Germany where a 2am feed was unheard of so she would regularly sleep through from about midnight to 6 am right from the start. When my youngest was born in the UK, I saw no reason to wake her for a 2 am feed and this made life much easier.
However, the challenges came for me when the children were old enough to sleep in their own rooms. Before they started nursery school, I had a fairly loose bedtime routine and they usually went to bed at a time that suited me. If I were out visiting beyond bedtime, they would often fall asleep in the buggy on the way home and I would just pop them into bed without them waking up during the nappy change (I’d leave them in their vest and t-shirt rather than risk disturbing them by putting pyjamas on them).
When they started nursery school (and later on infant school), an early bedtime became a bit more important to ensure that they got enough sleep. I found that by the end of the first week of school, they would be really tired at bedtime and, as the term went on, they became more and more tired earlier in the day. Indeed, my youngest would often fall asleep before tea time towards the end of term and it brought home to me just how exhausting school can be for little ones. I noticed this pattern continue throughout their school lives and well into the teenage years when they would both be feeling quite exhausted towards the end of each half term.
Getting enough sleep is essential for young kids to keep up with the rigours and demands of schooling during the early years. Research shows that a student’s performance in the classroom is directly affected by the amount of sleep he/she gets the night before. Sleep deprivation can increase the incidence of academic failure, something that we all want to avoid for our kids, whatever their age.
This is why developing a good bedtime routine is essential before your child reaches nursery or school age. Kids who get enough sleep are healthier, happier and learn much easier. Children who suffer with sleep problems of any sort are at a disadvantage academically and it’s up to us as parents to find a way of making sure our kids can sleep through the night so that they’re bright eyed and bushy tailed each morning, ready to face the day with all the vim and vigour they need to make the most of their education.
How do you make sure your child gets enough sleep at night? If your child has sleep problems of any sort, how do you deal with these? We’ll be taking a closer look at sleep problems in the next blog post and looking at effective solutions that will hopefully help you to solve your child’s disturbed sleep patterns.