Sleeping seems like one of the easiest, most natural functions to many adults, but most parents can attest that getting a child to bed can be full of problems.
Sleep is important for many reasons. A good night’s sleep:
• Improves your child’s attention span.
• Improves memory.
• Increases your child’s ability to learn.
• Is associated with fewer behavioral problems in children.
• Creates a more pleasant home atmosphere.
“Toddlers need an average of 12 hours of sleep in a 24-hour period,” says Dr. Frances Smith, a pediatrician with Children’s Physicians, Val Verde. “They will usually have one nap during the day that can last anywhere from one to three hours. School-aged children require less sleep as they get older. They need approximately 10 hours of sleep a night.”
The best way to eliminate bedtime problems, says Dr. Smith, is to create a good sleep routine and start that routine at the same time each night.
“Toddlers especially are reassured by the same sequence of events happening over and over again,” says Dr. Smith.
Start your bedtime routine about 30 minutes before bedtime, which for a toddler should be around 7:30 or 8 p.m. A bedtime routine can include a bath, brushing of teeth and a bedtime story, songs or chat about the day – and then lights out. It should be low-key and relaxed.
“The hard part comes after lights out,” says Dr. Smith. “You’ve told them good night and you will see them in the morning. So, if they get out of bed, you simply put them back in bed. Don’t argue with them — and keep it up. Within a week of this new routine, your child will know what to expect and will realize that no amount of wailing or whining will change the routine.”