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A blogger friend of ours describes bedtime in her home as like this:
"Mum ... I’m thirsty.
Mum ... I’m hungry.
Mum ... I’m thirsty again
Muuum ... I need tucking in again.
Muuuum ... Muuuum ... Muuuuum ..."
Thank you for calling the Mum request line. You have called outside of business hours. Mum is not available to take your call at present, but please know your call is important to her. Leave a message and she’ll get back to you once you’ve slept a solid 10-12 hours.’’
Levity aside, a solid 10-12 hours sleep with as little interaction with us as possible is good sleep management. The experts recommend 11-13 hours sleep for preschoolers, 10-11 hours sleep for schoolchildren and 9-10 hours sleep for adolescents.
There’s been a significant amount of research about children’s and teenagers’ sleeping patterns that connects lack of sleep, not surprisingly, with behaviour problems and academic under-performance. However, there are also links with obesity and depression.
Here are some widely agreed and recommended guidelines for helping them get that sleep they need:
Have a consistent bedtime routine.
Create a relaxed setting at bedtime. Consider quiet background music, a light massage or stroking if there are having difficulty unwinding from the day.
Try to keep things quiet and unstimulating for at least half an hour before bedtime.
Avoid foods that contain sugar or caffeine prior to bedtime.
Don’t put them to bed hungry, but also don’t give them a big meal immediately before bedtime.
Importantly, get them up at the same time every morning. It’s the getting-up time that actually regulates the sleep pattern.
For older children and teenagers:
Ensure good management of time so they aren’t staying up all hours of the night doing homework or cramming for an exam.
Keep computers, television sets and phones out of bedrooms as much as possible.
If a youngster wakes up during the night, keep the interaction minimal. Quietly and calmly put them back to bed, tuck them up with a good night kiss and make a relatively speedy departure. Doing any more can encourage this behaviour because they’re enjoying our undivided attention, while an angry response raises stress and sleeplessness levels.