I believe that settling in the evening and getting a good night’s sleep is one of those important life skills. For this reason I would like to equip each of my children with the self-knowledge to sleep easily and well, most nights anyway.
Bed-time routine is not just for toddlers! I need one, you need one, and so do our teenagers. Thing is, if you’ve not instilled one in the early years it is harder to embed one later on. But not impossible. And actually, as in so many parenting tasks, it may have to start with you. Do you have a soothing and effective bed-time routine? It is hard to pass something on to our children that we don’t already have for ourselves; and they learn by example. So, do you start to go to bed in good time, before you are falling over with exhaustion? What are your bedtime rituals? – gather up the flotsam and jetsam of the day, set the dishwasher to run, put the breakfast things out for early-risers, lock the back door, turn off the lights, brush teeth, undress, peek at the children, read for a bit, turn off the light..
You may now start to notice the ways in which you prepare yourself to settle for the night.
Do you leave enough time for these soothing activities – or do you stay up watching that bit too much television and then make a dash for bed before it’s too late to get even six hours sleep?
I once set my teenager and his friend the research task of finding out how much sleep we are supposed to have each night for healthy functioning. They surprised themselves and me with their findings that often it is adults that are cheating themselves of enough sleep. And sleep-deprivation is leading to increased incidence of accidents, obesity, depression, drinking, inability to concentrate, diabetes and heart problems. In case you’re wondering the suggested number of hours for sleep were: adults 7-9hrs, teenagers 8.5-9.25hrs, children 10-11hrs, toddlers 11-14hrs, infants 14-15hrs, newborns 11-18hrs.
I had to shape up and curtail my late nights after that, before I could command him to bed in good time. This was no small task as I am naturally a night owl, in a family of night owls and one lark, and I cherish my late evenings. The still and quiet of the house late at night feels like ‘my time’. I have a second wind sometime past ten and can then go on for several hours with ease. No matter how resolutely I promised myself an early night, I wasn’t making it upstairs any time before midnight. I finally cracked it by remembering something from my children – if I want to get them to bed earlier I have to wake them up early the morning before. I discovered that the same is true of me – the only way to get myself to bed at a decent time was to set the alarm, and get out of bed, at a truly indecent time. I now rise at six and then my body insists that I head for bed around ten.
And I learned another thing. The still and quiet of the house early in the morning can feel like ‘my time’ too. It is also far less likely to be invaded by a teenager too!
Make sleep a priority – don’t make it the thing you do only after everything else is done. Instead, set a time to stop, so you get the sleep you need.
A small change can make a big difference…