By Bonnie Zucker Psy.D
When your child is tired, or overtired, you’re certain that it’s going to be a bumpy ride. They’re fussy, cranky, hungry, not hungry, and just plain difficult…. And for a parent dealing with a child who seems to have chronic sleep issues, the problem seems helpless. Today, Parents Ask expert Bonnie Zucker discusses sleep problems with children and offers tips on ways to gentley work through them.
Q: My son has had a hard time falling asleep and staying asleep. I’m worried that his sleep problems are affecting his behavior? He seems “off.” Any tips?
The importance of sleep cannot be underestimated. Plain and simple, sleep is necessary for the health of your body and mind, and without good sleep, we cannot expect children to perform at their best. A strong immune system, optimal cognitive functioning, memory skills, processing speed, and many other cognitive abilities depend on quality rest. The quality, not just quantity, of sleep is also key in strengthening a child’s body and mind. Childhood sleep problems are among the top behavioral issues reported by parents.
So what can parents do? First, establish a sleep routine, including time to unwind, a ritual of getting ready for bed, and a bedtime. Ideally, children should sleep in their own bed and have the same bedtime and wake time every day, with no more than 1 hour of variance during the weekends (so, if your child’s bedtime is 9pm during the week, it shouldn’t be later than 10pm during the weekend). Once a routine is established, stick to it! Sleep is one of the easiest things to sacrifice and there needs to be a commitment to it.