The saying “All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy” is incomplete. Although much has been written about the benefits of eating healthy and regular exercise, good sleep remains an unsung hero.
Sleep is essential for general well-being and health. It is known since ancient times that sleep allows the body to rejuvenate, replenish and renew itself. Therefore, it is essential for a child to get the required amount of sleep. A well-rested child contributes a great deal towards keeping the atmosphere at home peaceful and happy.
Children’s sleep habits
Babies, toddlers and adults have different sleep cycles. The sleep cycle in babies and infants depends on the need to be fed and changed. But by the time infants turn toddlers, their sleep cycle stabilizes and they are able to sleep better through the night.
It is a well-established fact that a toddler’s brain development is directly related to the number of hours he sleeps. However, many toddlers experience sleep problems like awakenings, or resist going to bed or falling asleep. Sleep deprivation can be detrimental to the healthy development of a child.
Here is how you can ensure that your toddler sleeps well through the night to get the adequate amount of rest.
Give your toddler his own bed
Move your toddler to a ‘big’ bed and gently explain to her that she can now sleep on her own. This will motivate her to hit the bed earlier than usual. Also, spreading bed sheets with fun designs and animated characters will make things look attractive and make the transition easier.
To read more on the cognitive development in children, click here.
Cut back on nap time
As toddlers grow, they can stay awake for longer periods of time. If your toddler takes naps during the afternoon, try to gradually reduce his nap time. This will help him retire early in the evening. The best way to taper nap time is to keep him occupied with fun activities around the house. Remember, the more you expose your child to something, the sooner he will adapt to it.
Increase physical activity
A lot has been spoken about physical activity and outdoor play for children. But advancements in technology has also affected the way toddler play. Nowadays, most parents hand their child a cell phone or a tablet to make them sit and play within the confines of home. Avoid this.
Outdoor play is of paramount importance for toddlers, not just for exercise but for overall stimulation and growth of different senses like touch, smell, hearing and vision. Playing in a park or the garden exposes the child to a lot of greenery, which also stimulates the senses. So, take your child to play at the park. If you don’t have a park nearby, then go for a walk with your child.
Indulging in daily outdoor play will also increase her appetite (so it is not tiresome to make her eat) and tire her as well, which will help her sleep soundly through the night. That’s two major battles won!
Shut out the light
Toddlers sleep more peacefully in a dark room. So, ensure that all the curtains are drawn and lights switched off. You can stick some attractive glow-in-the-dark moon and stars to the ceiling for mild lighting that you may need
Tell a bedtime story
Telling your toddler a bedtime story is a nice way of winding him down. So, try telling him a bedtime story every day. And once this become routine, you will find that he tucks himself in his bed even before bedtime, eagerly waiting for you to start the story.
Science of sleep
Melatonin, a sleep hormone, is generated in large quantities in humans around 30 minutes before bedtime. Therefore, these 30 minutes are vital. Helping your child unwind and stay calm during these 30 minutes can help improve her sleep.
Giving your child a bath with warm water followed by a gentle massage and a story-telling session can help your toddler get into the sleepy mode without much fuss.
“There was never a child so lovely but his mother was glad to get him to sleep.” — Ralph Waldo Emerson
The author is a professional German translator, interpreter, foreign language instructor for schools and visiting faculty for colleges and corporates.