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Better Sleep for Little Ones

If a child in your life resists sleep, it might be time to get creative. Sleep is especially important for young people because it affects their mental and physical growth and development, including

  • Restoring energy, repairing tissue and increasing the blood supply to muscles
  • Releasing growth hormones
  • Solidifying learning and memory
  • Improving immune system function

Getting adequate amounts of sleep increases a child’s sense of well-being. A well-rested child feels more alert and ready to learn and is better adjusted emotionally and behaviorally. Experts recommend developing a sleep schedule as early as age 1 that includes a relaxing bedtime routine. Consistency is critical (weekends and holidays included).

Once kids are in school, sticking to the sleeping schedule may become more difficult with homework and extracurricular activities, but it’s important to not lose sight of the goal. Take time to teach kids why adequate sleep is so necessary, and make the commitment to limit TV and other media near bedtime. Lighted screens at night can interfere with a natural sleep cycle by sending a message to the brain that it’s still daylight, making it harder for children to settle into sleep.

Here are a few creative ways to persuade kids to head for bed:

  • Make it fun. Invite them to a “Mattress Ball” and tell them to wear their best pajamas for dinner and dancing in Dreamland.
  • Let them choose. “Bed now or after we read your favorite book?”
  • Empower them to face their fears. If the fear is monsters, arm them with a monster-safe nightlight or find a book about the topic with a good ending. For monsters, check out this animated clip of Mercer Mayer’s There’s a Nightmare in My Closet narrated by Billy Crystal on YouTube.
  • Set up a reward system. Acknowledge their efforts to get ready and in bed on time, and for staying there through the night.