Whilst a tired child may be easily spotted by others, they are often not quite as easily convinced. Thrashing, crying, obsessing and whining. They are determined to fight sleep with all they have.
So how do you teach your child to recognise that they are indeed tired and embrace slumber? The dream is one of a fuss-free bedtime where kids say "good night" and head off to bed happy. Realistically, it may not happen every night but here's how to get closer to the ideal.
All the research points at routine, routine, routine. The theory is that sleep cues train the brain to prepare for sleep. Routine can help enforce an earlier bedtime, but has no impact on the number of night wakings.
Routine is supposed to make your life easier and help your kids fall asleep faster. The same order of events tells your brain sleep is eminent. Helpful activities to include may be:
- sitting to eat dinner;
- having a warm bath;
- brushing teeth;
- getting dressed in pyjamas;
- reading books;
- saying good night and
- saying prayers.
The choice and order of events is up to you but once established it helps to follow the routine step by step.
The tired traps to avoid are:
- trying to skip out any steps in the routine;
- letting your kids run riot until they collapse and then trying to start the routine;
- screen time before bedtime (includes TV, computer and phones)
- high sugar, high caffeine foods.
However, there is another school of thought that says that children with differing temperaments will require differing approaches. 'The Child Whisperer', Carol Tuttle, believes that fun-loving children may require more action and spice to prepare for bed - think jumping on the bed, fantastical stories and a bucket of giggles before they settle down. Alternatively a more sensitive child may need no distractions, dim lights and 'plush' bedding.
The key is to tune into your child's needs and meet them where you can. Your child needs a good chat? Make it part of bath time. Your child needs loads of cuddles? Build it into story time. Your child seems more tired than usual? Drop your expectations and try to get through the routine quicker than usual.
Whatever you do, do not expect an irrational, overtired child to behave reasonable or rashly.
You know your child best so trust yourself and do what works best to make bedtime less of a chore for you and your kids.