Tuesday, March 29, 2011

A good night's sleep is all about setting the stage

Photo courtesy of Family Features

According to the National Sleep Foundation, sleep is food for the brain and vital to a child's health and growth. But like vegetables just because it's good for you does not mean children will like it.

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Babies cry.

Toddlers fuss.

Preschoolers run.

Tweens tweet.

So, what can a parent do to maintain a sleep-friendly environment?

Here are a few tips recommended by the NSF and Better Sleep Council:
* Reduce noise -- Noisy televisions, stereos and even Bowser barking can interrupt one's sleep. Nobody needs complete silence to sleep but minimizing excess sound will help them fall asleep and stay asleep. Live near a highway? Carpet, upholstery and blackout curtains can absorb some of the ambient noises and make the room quieter. The white noise of an aquarium or fan can help block unwanted noise.
* Ideal temperatures -- will vary from one individual to the next. However, as a rule, the NSF says that temperatures above 75 F and below 54 F will disrupt sleep. "A slightly cooler room contributes to good sleep because it mimics what happens when the body's internal temperature drops to its lowest level during the night," according to the NSF. Gauge the temperature in your child's room and make adjustments accordingly. Rooms with more sun exposure tend to be warmer and may need a ceiling fan.
* Let there not be light -- Even when sleeping the human body is sensitive to light. The Better Sleep Council said that light, such as the rising sun, is a powerful cue to the body and can wake up the brain well before the alarm clock sounds. "Keeping the room as dark as possible helps the body fall asleep naturally," according to the BSC. It's for this reason both the NSF and BSC recommend the use of light blocking curtains.
Remember the heavy, rubber-back curtains your grandmother had in her house? They not only blocked the light but kept the room warm in the winter and cool in the summer. Today, companies such as LightCatcher are making curtains with technology designed to make them energy and sound efficient. Look for them in specialty stores and online at sites such as Buy Buy Baby

How much sleep is enough?
Every child and adult for that matter will vary with regard to how much sleep is enough. However, these are the guidelines recommended by the NSF for specific age groups:
Newborns (0-2 months): 12-18 hours
Infants (3-11 months): 14-15 hours
Toddlers (1-3 years): 12-14 hours
Preschoolers (3-5 years): 11-13 hours
School-Age Children (5-10 years): 10-11 hours
Teens (10-17): 8.5-9.25 hours
Find out more at www.sleepfoundation.org.

Create a healthy routine
Even in the perfect environment, children need to develop sleep-time routines to make it a habit. Below are a few tips from Sleepforkids.org in relation to age:

* Establish weekly daytime and bedtime schedules.
* Create an enjoyable bedtime tradition such as reading a story.
* Rocking chairs are great but it's important to raise infants to become self soothers who can fall asleep independently.

* Establish weekly daytime and bedtime schedules.
* Carry on the traditions of reading a story.
* Set limits and be consistent but allow for the use of a security object such as a blanket or stuffed animal.

* Establish a weekly sleep schedule and be consistent.
* Encourage them to read you a story.
* Set up a routine that always ends in the room where the child sleeps.
* Keep the room free of distractions such as toys and radios.

School-age children
* Establish a weekly sleep schedule and be consistent.
* Explain why sleep is important.
* As they get older, make adjustments. Do not stray too far from the schedule unless it’s a weekend or special occasion.
* Continue to encourage reading before bedtime as a way to wind down.
* Establish rules regarding technology before bed such as TVs, cell phones and computers.
* Set rules about no sweets or caffeine before bed.

Today's Muse
Any kid will run any errand for you, if you ask at bedtime  ~ Red Skelton