Tuesday, 25 September 2012

Children and sleep - how do you make sure they get enough?

We are three weeks into the new school term and I have a problem. How do I get my 11-year-old daughter to go to bed? I’m serious. It’s not like I can just carry her upstairs or put her to bed as I did when she was little – she’s as tall as I am! And I spend so much time telling her to go to bed I sometimes wonder if I’m just white noise in the background.

Now she’s in senior school her days are longer; she has to leave home in the mornings an hour earlier than she did before, so she can catch the school bus, which means of course she’s up much earlier than she was before. That should mean she should be happy to go to bed at night, right? Of course she isn’t.

What is a reasonable time for a child of her age to go to sleep at night? I try for 8pm, thinking it will take her at least half and hour to actually get in to bed, but in truth most of the time I’m lucky if I can get her upstairs for 9pm. Even then I will often catch her reading when she is supposed to be sleeping.

To be fair, she does get up in the morning – eventually – and she hasn’t yet been late for school (not this one anyway), but I can see she is tired. What is it with children that they refuse to give in and go to bed when they are tired? I love my bed and would happily spend many more hours in it than I do, given the chance.

Is it a case of kids know everything, especially pre-teens and teenagers, and mum knows nothing? I don’t recall my parents having this problem with me and my sister and brothers.

Should I simply leave it and let her go to bed when she’s ready? Then that brings up a new set of problems – at what point do we parents get to have adult time or just time to chill?

While I’ve been pondering this issue for the past couple of weeks a new survey has been released by Travelodge focusing on children and sleep. It shows that the average child in the UK goes to bed at around 11.20pm during the week (whatever an average child is, I think they must mean on average).

It also states that children from seven to 11 years old should have between 9.5 and 11.5 hours sleep each night. According to Dr Pat Spungin, a child psychologist and parenting expert quoted in the report: "Scientific evidence shows that adequate night-time sleep is just as important as healthy eating and regular exercise for children to develop.” She says not getting enough sleep affects their concentrations, attention and mood. “Research also shows that children who are sleep deprived do less well academically, show more problem behaviour and have lower levels of social skills,” she adds.

So what can I do to improve the sleep situation at home? I’m open to ideas as I think this is very important. If you have time, leave your ideas and experiences in the comments section below as I would love to hear how other parents cope with the sleep issue, especially those of you with children around the same age as my daughter.

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