Stop the bedtime battles with our guide to maintaining a trouble free bedtime even in during the half term holidays.
Throughout the year your child may have an excellent bedtime routine but along come the holidays and that good bedtime routine goes right out of the window. If you’re struggling to get your child to settle over half term you’re certainly not alone, many parents find bedtimes stressful during the school holidays. Excitement from fun-filled days out, Halloween parties, and mountains of chocolate can all add to the trouble at bedtime.
Rule number one, is not to let them climb into your bed instead. It can be a slippery slope into never getting them back into their own room, she warns. If ever you do wind up doing it, always take them back to their own bed when they're asleep so they can associate it with sleeping well.
Try not to get angry if your child fights sleep, she adds. It can be so tempting to shout, 'GO TO SLEEP!' But all you'll do is further upset your child, who will then have even more trouble sleeping.
Lisa Artis, spokesperson for the Sleep Council, agrees. 'It only aggravates the situation and doesn't aid the relaxing atmosphere they need to sleep. That isn't to say you should let them get away with being troublesome. Be firm, but in control.'
If your child is frightened, it's particularly important not to get cross, says Lisa. 'Fear can come from nightmares and night terrors, which can leave children distressed and less likely to go to bed. Stories normalising this fear can be helpful and there are lots of lovely ones available.'
Ensure the environment is right for sleep, adds Lisa. 'It should be cool, quiet, dark and free from distraction. Ideally, computers, gaming machines and TVs should be banned from the bedroom, but if that's unlikely, keep them away from the bed and try to limit the use of these devises just before bedtime,' she says, adding that children shouldn't be overstimulated through active play in the hours before bedtime.
Make sure the bed is comfortable, she says. 'Many parents think nothing of splashing out on shoes for a child's growing feet, but buy the cheapest mattress going! Yet a badly made or lumpy old mattress can cause back problems later in life and may affect allergies like asthma or eczema, as well as stop them nodding off at night,' says Lisa, who adds that younger children are unlikely to complain about their mattress as it's all they know.
Most important, says Lisa, is to stick to a bedtime routine right up until early teens, as it goes a long way to minimising later problems. 'Ideally, this means teatime, followed by quiet play, bath, story and then bed.' Too many parents, she says, shout 'Bedtime!' out of nowhere – then say they'll come up half-an-hour later and tuck them in, expecting them to be magically calm or even asleep.
The general rule of thumb is that under three's need 12 hours sleep a night; four to six year-olds need between 10.5-11.5 hours; six to 12 year olds around 10 hours and teenagers about eight to nine hours. 'Yet research from the Sleep Council found that more than a third of seven to 14 year-olds don't go to bed until around 9pm on a school night,' says Lisa.
Avoid too late a bed time except for special occasions. Children who are up past their body's natural clock quickly become overtired. This makes it more difficult for them to both fall asleep at bedtime and stay asleep overnight. Familiarise yourself with recommended bed times for your child's age and do your best to make it happen wherever possible.
Ensure kids don't rely on a sleep crutch to fall asleep, such as a parent's presence in the room or even patting or holding hands. It's essential to encourage your child to fall asleep independently without a reliance on a parent during bedtime.
Self-settling is key, children can't settle themselves to sleep at the start of the night. But teaching children to soothe themselves to sleep through a calming down bedtime routine can be achieved.
Make sure your child isn't over hungry or, conversely, isn't too full of food — especially the wrong type of foods, she adds. It's best to avoid anything sugar loaded during the evening, such as biscuits and cakes. Porridge is a great supper time snack or even a banana smoothie.
Could they be too thirsty? Mild dehydration can affect sleep. But make sure that the only drink they go to bed with is water.
Reward systems can also be useful – a sticker on a chart if they go to sleep nicely, for example. And it can help to let your child know you'll come back in and check on them regularly once they're in bed. Don't panic if your child takes a long time to settle – as long as they are lying down and are quiet, it's promoting a relaxing environment. Print our free printable reward sleep chart to help with your children at home. Good luck!!!!!