Tackling Sleep Difficulties in Children
Why is sleep so important? Sleep is one of the top five human needs along with food, safety, warmth and love. We all know the feelings we experience when we are sleep deprived or have experienced a night or two of interrupted sleep. These feelings affect our mood, emotional regulation and ability to concentrate or focus. So how do we help your child get better sleep?
- Teamwork: Sleep is just as important for parents as it is for our kids. One of the most heartfelt recommendations that I can give to another mom is to make sure that you are taking care of yourself first. You cannot successfully help others put on their oxygen masks unless you have first put yours on. Work with a spouse, friend or family member to ensure you are switching off and getting enough sleep for yourself.
- Assessment: Keep a sleep log for your child for the next 10 days. Use the internet to find examples of “sleep logs for children,” if you like. This log will be used to identify the quantity of sleep your child generally needs and help set your child’s sleep window.
- Determine sleep quantity: Using the sleep log, add the total number of hours your child slept in each 24-hour period (including any naps) and divide by 10 to get your 10-day average.
- Set your sleep window: Although you do not have control over the amount of sleep your child needs to function, you actually can have a lot of control over when they are getting their sleep. For example, if your child requires an average of seven hours of sleep per 24-hour period, and you are a morning person, you may want to eliminate all naps and set your child’s sleep window for 10:30 p.m. to 5:30 a.m. instead of 12 a.m. to 7 a.m.
- Establish a new sleep routine: The best way to do this is by being strict with the wake-up time! Even if your child is still sleeping soundly at the end of their sleep window, you will need to wake them. I know this sounds counterproductive, but you cannot create a new routine without consistency. Also, prevent napping in children over age 4. Ensure that you avoid car rides and other activities that may place your child in a restful state. Remember: the goal is to just have them sleep during the specified sleep window.
We hope these tips can help you begin to effectively change sleep habits. Remember, our team at ABAeCare is always here to answer your questions. Feel free to contact us at 1-866-569-7395 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Tracy J. Williams, Ph.D., LP; LBA/BCBA-D
Licensed Psychologist (SD/IA/MN)
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