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When you get to the point of having a preschooler, you might not think bedtime is all that important–especially if you have a more flexible child like Kaitlyn (2.5). This is an incorrect assumption, however. I have already written a post impressing the importance of a consistent bedtime (see Consistent Bedtime ). In this post, I give concrete tips in association with your preschooler. These are tips from On Becoming Preschoolwise.
WHY HAVE AN EARLY BEDTIME? (page 104)
I know I already wrote a post, but here are more reasons:
- “When preschool-age children are not getting enough sleep, they are irritable, hard to manage, and have little or no self-control.” While we were moving, Brayden and Kaitlyn were getting to bed late every night. My husband was working on our new house and for two weeks, I was putting all three kids to bed alone each night. This meant bedtime was late for Brayden and Kaitlyn consistently. I definitely saw a difference in the children’s behavior. At first, I attributed it to them not seeing their dad much and missing him. I am sure that was partially true, but I think most of it was the over-tiredness.
- “It is unfair to expect over-tired young children to behave like well-rested ones.”
- Children grow in their sleep. “Around three to four years of age is a time of growth spurts in children.” I can definitely attest to this. From Brayden’s 2nd birthday to his 3rd, he was wearing the same shirts. I found this amazing since he had been changing wardrobes every three months, followed by every six months thus far in his life. I erroneously assumed between age 3-4, he could do the same. Nope. Not only that, but he went through shirts in a matter of months once again. This is a big time for growth for your child.
- “Well-rested children do not get sick as often as children who are chronically over-tired.” I think this relates to all people, not just children. When you are running on low sleep, your body is not able to fight off infection as efficiently as when you have plenty of sleep. Once again, I turn to our moving experience. Typically, my husband and I rarely get sick. We both have strong immune systems. Our children often get colds as children do. During the time we were moving, my husband and I were both operating on a few hours of sleep per night for over two weeks. We both got really sick. Brayden and Kaitlyn got the cold a week later, though not to the same severity of my husband and I. McKenna got a tiny bit if a stuffy nose two weeks later. My point is this. Typically when a cold comes into our home, Brayden or Kaitlyn get it first. They are the ones around other children the most and the ones who haven’t had as many colds over a lifetime to build immunity to. McKenna often soon follows. I will sometimes get a mild form of the cold, though not always. My husband rarely gets the cold. This time, I got it first with really bad symptoms. My husband soon followed, also really bad. Brayden and Kaitlyn got milder cases, and McKenna’s was basically nothing to speak of. McKenna was the one getting her sleep. Brayden and Kaitlyn were getting less, though only by an hour each night. My husband and I were getting very little sleep.
WHAT TIME IS BEDTIME? (page 104)
- Your preschooler needs at least 10 hours of sleep each night. This does not mean bedtime is 10 hours before waketime. Sleep needs to be at least 10 hours.
- Bedtime needs to be 11-11.5 hours before waketime. If your child wakes at 7 AM each day, your child needs to be in bed by 7:30-8:00 PM. This will give your child time to fall asleep. If your preschooler needs 12 hours of sleep, the be sure to start bedtime earlier.
- Don’t start your bedtime routine at what you want to be bedtime. Allow at least 30 minutes for your bedtime routine. Take note of how long your individual routine lasts.
I’M CONVINCED…HOW DO I CHANGE BEDTIME? (page 104)
- Try moving bedtime back 15 minutes at a time each week until you reach your desired bedtime.
HOW DO I ESTABLISH A CONSISTENT BEDTIME? (pages 105-106)
- Choose a bedtime you can be consistent with.
- If you need to be out late, hire babysitters when possible so you can remain consistent with bedtime.
- Avoid roughhousing before bedtime; it can take children too long to wind down (though I must say, Brayden actually sleeps better when he gets roughhousing before bed).
- Tell your child to go to bed–don’t as if he wants to.
- Help your child get ready for bed. Don’t just send him off to get ready and expect him to do so until he has shown he can. You need to help him through the process of PJs, brushing teeth, bathroom, etc.
- Read stories on the couch or in a chair–not in child’s bed. When Bradyen was two, we did stories in his bed. Story time too FOREVER! We started doing it on the couch, then went to bed. This made story time much faster and more consistent in length.
- Limit number of stories. We do three stories per night per child. If we need to read stories with both Brayden and Kaitlyn together, then we do three total so the time is the same.
- If your child wets the bed, limit drinks after dinner.
Sleep is very important for your preschooler. Just because he is older now does not mean that sleep no longer matters. Keep in mind the importance of sleep and also the difference between sleep quality and quantity. Consistent sleep routines and sleep times lead to better sleep quality. Think of yourself. Think of the difference in your attitude when you get enough sleep and enough quality sleep vs. when you get too little sleep and/or don’t sleep well. Your child is the same. For more on sleep and your preschooler, see On Becoming Preschoolwise starting on page 114.
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