Answered by the expert, Becky Goman
The most important time in life for physical and mental development is childhood. From an early age children are taught the importance of a healthy, balanced diet and regular physical activity. However, often little regard is given to another vital aspect of our wellbeing…. sleep!
Did you know that the average two year old child needs 13 hours of sleep and the average 5 year old needs 11 hours? Of course, every child is unique so some may need more and some less.
The two key practices I apply with every family I work with are consistency and routine. Children thrive on routine; and a predictable routine, particularly at bedtime, helps a child understand what is going to happen next. Lack of consistency by parents serves to confuse children and can lead to problems at a later stage.
When I create a sleeping plan a core component is always to read a bedtime story. Repetition is key to the success of any sleep strategy. Having a story (or two depending on age) read to them at a set time every night, as part of their bedtime routine, gives children cues that it is nearly time for sleep.
Story time is important in so many ways. In our busy, modern lives, story time is, for many parents, often the only opportunity to have one to one quality time with their children. It is a time for bonding. In his book ‘Solve Your Child’s Sleep Problems’, leading child sleep expert, Dr Richard Ferber, explains that children will not get the same closeness and warmth from watching television with their parents. This is because, unlike reading a bedtime story, there is no personal interaction. This makes it a poor choice for a bedtime routine.
Reading to our children is a fun and exciting shared experience. It is also a great way for both parents and children to de-stress. Stories as part of a bedtime routine are particularly beneficial for numerous reasons. They serve as a distraction from any worries they have; they help children relax and unwind from their day. They fuel their imaginations; books transport children to magical places and allow them to visualise characters, places and ideas. All of which continue in their dreams while sleeping.
The introduction of technology in the form of television, tablets and phones as a routine part of children’s lives has resulted in the decline of the age old tradition of the bedtime story. There is more and more anecdotal evidence to support the value of reading bedtime stories.
It is vital that the use of technology does not encroach on the bedtime routine. Giving into the “just 5 more minutes” plea means that by the time you have finally prised the tech out of their sticky little hands there is no time to implement your bedtime routine.
Children become over stimulated by the increased production of adrenaline when playing games on a screen, watching TV or even reading from an e-reader. Too much adrenaline directly impacts sleep by making it difficult to either go to sleep or stay asleep. It also increases anxiety which makes children reluctant to go to sleep.
The blue light emitted by screens suppresses the release of melatonin – the ‘sleepy’ hormone, which is widely proven to disrupt normal sleep patterns.
I am an advocate of reading for everyone; it’s something I do myself as part of my own ‘bedtime routine’. I love a good book, a physical, tangible, dog eared, story that I can pick up, put down and lose myself in.
The Birdham Bear stories are refreshing and thought provoking children’s books that fuel the imagination in a traditional yet somehow contemporary way.
I will always recommend bedtime stories for my clients. There is nothing more special than preparing your child for a great night’s sleep with a shared educational and fun experience.
If you would like to know more about creating a good bedtime routine, or how I can help you help your child to have the best sleep they can, please visit my website.
The Independent Child Sleep Expert