Children perceive staying up late as an adult’s privilege; something only adults are ‘allowed’ to do. Therefore kids can equate going to bed as some kind of denial, or even punishment. Parents the world over know and dread the bedtime battles! It’s funny how as children we see bedtime as something to delay. As adults we long for those early nights for the benefits we know we gain.
A child’s bedroom is no longer what it used to be! Many bedrooms are now like self-contained living quarters that are often rigged up with all the latest gadgets that enable them to do almost everything they want with the flick of a switch, the push of a button and with very little physical effort.
Kid’s social lives can be run from the comfort of their bed, their phone, ipads and consols all they need to keep in touch with friends (and family!) I know children who text their parents from their bedroom to ask when dinner will be ready!
This is just the way it is these days. Other than striving to gain a healthy balance between technology and nature there really is little point in complaining! This is our children’s time and this is the lives many of them and their peers will lead. But this doesn’t mean we cannot impose guidelines!
Some consideration should be given to the fact that this lifestyle wreaks havoc with sleep! In our world of fast food and instant entertainment; artificial lights creating cities that never sleep, and telecommunications that makes us contactable at all times. It is vital not to view sleep as a luxury to be taken at our leisure, but as a necessity that is paramount to our daily functioning as well as our health and well-being. It is vitally important for our children, who live by our rules, to learn whilst young the habits that they will take with them into adulthood.
Parents can often over-look the importance of sleep. We dismiss it out-of-hand as a contribution to the lack-of-energy and focus we sometimes see in our kids; and as a contributing factor in behavioural issues including general moodiness.
A tired child can be fidgety, bad company, defiant and disobedient. It would be unwise to think a child is not tired just because they don’t look it! Some children do not act sleepy and lethargic but often the opposite, especially young children. They try to resist tiredness and become more active. The underlying weariness that ensues combined with being ‘wired’ messes with their mood and general behaviour.
Objective studies have shown that children with ADHD, ADD and Asperger syndrome have poor quality sleep on average with a large proportion suffering from sleep problems like insomnia, snoring, frequent or early waking. Our child may go to their bedroom or be in bed for 8 hours every night, but does this mean they are getting adequate sleep? Not necessarily. If you feel your child’s moods are exceptional it is worth a trip to the doctor to ensure there are no underlying sleep disorders at play.
Of course, sleep is not the be- all and end- all of narky kids (if only it were that simple) but looking at sleep and the part it plays can make for a more balanced whole.
Could a sleep issue be causing your child’s moods? If you suspect this to be the case and you find you are at the end of your rope with the conflict and clashes, an experiment in a more natural approach to bedtime will do no harm while you wait for an appointment with your GP. This can include:
Dimmer lights as night approaches. As the day turns to night our body releases melatonin; a hormone made by the pineal gland in the brain. Levels rise in the early evening and continue to rise until sleep when levels remain high, falling naturally as day arrives. Light effects how much melatonin you produce, therefore flooding your system with artificial light tricks your brain into producing less which can mean a troubled night’s sleep
Little to no technology in the hours before bed. For the same reasons as above. Researchers at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute showed that exposure to light from computer tablets and similar gadgets significantly lowered levels of the hormone melatonin. Instead listen to calm music, and/ or read a book.
Use a more natural alarm clock such as The Wake-up Light, from Amazon recommended by the National Sleep Foundation. Light and sound gradually increase to wake you up gently and far more naturally than a jarring alarm clock.
Independent research shows that 8 out of 10 Wake-Up Light users reported that the device made it easier to get out of bed. Additionally, 88 percent of users say the Wake-Up Light is better than their previous way of waking up. It has also been clinically proven that light wakes you up more pleasantly and improves the quality of waking up.
Try this amazing Philips coloured sunrise simulation from amazon.co.uk:
Try a sleep-sound machine. These are clinically proven to help you fall asleep and wake up renewed. They drown out noises that keep you awake with soothing sounds. See The Sleep Hub’s separate article on the Best Sleep Sound Machines
Watch what your child eats. Read Natural sleep aids for more information on what to eat, what not to eat and how to aid sleep naturally.