Helping With Your Child’s Sleep Patterns

Helping with your child's sleep patterns

Getting your children into a sleep pattern that works for them can be very difficult. Children can be very resistant to a set bed time and can suffer sleep disturbance when they do try and fall asleep. This can include falling asleep difficulties, curtain calls where they get up and ask for another story a drink or whatever it might be this time, bedtime resistance and even tantrums.

It has been shown in research that bad bedtime behaviour as a toddler can be linked to behavioural problems in later life and also cognitive functions being impaired. On top of this parents of children with sleep problems may also have the same problems through association and this can lead to a downward spiral of emotional harmony within a family.

Before electricity our body clocks ran on the setting and the rise of the sun. This has been the case for millions of years until electricity came along. Now in the evening after the sun has set we are exposed to bright light from electric lights and screens and it is no different for our kids. How many kids these days watch television or play on a computer or tablet before bed. A rise in melatonin helps us to sleep but artificial light may put off the high levels of melatonin in the body which can make it difficult to sleep. One study suggested that toddlers that were put to bed before this rise in melatonin took 40-60 minutes to fall asleep which can lead to associating bed with arousal time not sleep time.

Conversely it is important to get high doses of natural light when you wake to keep your internal body clock in the right sync. It isn’t proven whether increasing melatonin by restricting light in an evening will lead to better sleep patterns but it seems that it is probably a good bet. So my tactic would be to restrict evening light somewhat and increase morning light which should, hopefully, lead to a better synchronisation of an internal body clock.