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According to research, about 70% of children under five have sleep problems; sleep is a vital part of our daily lives, both for children and their parents, so any problems in this are can have dreadful consequences. The issues behind sleep problems are complicated and stressful because too little sleep at night can make the days even harder for both parents and children.
So, what can be done to improve sleeping? Here are a few tips:
1. A day and night timetable
It is important to go to bed and wake up at the same time each day so you begin to "train" your child's biological clock. This will mean that around 7 am each morning your child will begin to wake and at around 7 pm they will be ready for bed.
Children that follow a routine are more likely to have a more peaceful and calm bedtime. They know that the same thing will happen each night: bath, wash teeth, pyjamas on, book in bed, cuddle then bed. They will come to know what happens next and will expect it to be the same each night.
3. Daytime naps
Surprisingly, sleeps or naps during the day can effect how well a child sleeps at night. You'd think not, but naps are important. Children find it hard to go all day long without a break and it can make them more relaxed and focused. The better the daytime sleep, the better the night sleep.
4. Help get them in the mood
Dim the lights, talk more quietly, turn off the TV or music and be calm during the last half hour of the day. Put black out curtain in your child's bedroom so any sunlight is not making the room bright. Similarly, the sunlight will encourage them to wake up so keep the binds down if you want them to increase the chances of them sleeping in later in the morning.
Try and make the bedroom a calm place in the evening. Make it warm and comfortable. Warm the pyjamas if its cold outside, make the bed look welcoming and just try to make it a nice place to be.
6. Hungry or hyper?
Try not to feed sugary foods in the evening that can make children too alert and awake. Carbohydrates are more calming on the body so try and eat these in the evening. And, make sure they have eaten well during the day. A hungry tummy can make sleep very hard!
7. Wear them out!
Make sure that you do lots of physical exercise with children during the day so they are worn out by bedtime! It's good for them to enjoy the outdoors and healthy too, so take them out whenever you can so they are tired and drop off to sleep quickly.
8. Read a book
A great way to end the day is to share a book. Snuggle up somewhere warm and chat about your day together. Relax and make it a special time of day.
9. Take a teddy
Allow your child to take a favourite teddy to bed with them. Its comforting and helps them sleep. Just make sure it's safe with no loose buttons or ribbons they could swallow.
10. Separation anxiety
If they worry about being away from you and use it as as excuse not to sleep, comfort them, show you where you sleep and be firm about not letting them out of bed.