Many of us have trouble adjusting our internal schedules to meet society's demands. This is particularly true in the stereotypical case of the night owl, who never wants to sleep and never wants to get up and running. As adults, we have to take responsibility for our own sleep choices. But what do we do when our children are night owls and we need them to go to school wide-eyed and ready to learn?
Go to Sleep At Night
Children need to have a fairly rigid schedule when it comes to sleep. If your night owl has trouble falling asleep at a reasonable hour or getting up and being alert at one, then you need to consider the amount and quality of their sleep. School-aged children should get nine to ten hours of sleep a night, whether they are in elementary school or high school.
In fact, studies show that teens are more likely to have trouble regulating their sleep patterns than younger children. If your child has trouble falling asleep at night, make sure that they have a firm bedtime. Help them to prepare for this bedtime by:
- Cutting out caffeine six hours before bedtime.
- Feeding them a healthy dinner.
- Limiting sugary or fatty snacks before bedtime.
- Limiting excitement in the hour before bedtime- this includes television and internet time.
- Setting a routine in place.
This last is particularly important because it will help your child's body to learn to prepare for sleep when it is triggered by the routine. Do not allow your child to alter their bedtime on the weekends either. Try to keep irregularities out of their schedule when you can, as that will make it easier to train their bodies to respond the schedule you have set for them.
With a younger child, a great routine is to read a story with them before bedtime. Have your child get ready for bed in advance of this, so that they can go straight to sleep afterwards. Having them in their pajamas will also help their mind shift towards sleep. This is also a great opportunity for you to bond with your child.
Wake Up in The Morning
The second part of the sleep equation is getting up. As with bedtime, your child should be on a schedule for this. Do not allow them to sleep in on weekends or during holidays, as this will upset the schedule you have been trying to create by reinforcing their night owl tendencies. Instead, wake your child up on time every morning with an alarm clock. Go ahead and check on them a few minutes after the alarm clock has rung in order to ensure that they are getting out of bed.
One way that you can help your child be more alert in the morning is to expose them to as much sunlight as possible. So keep the curtains open in their room and throughout the house. Copious amounts of sunlight will help to reset their internal clock, notifying the brain that it is time to be awake and alert. Finally, help your sleepy child out with a healthy breakfast. This will get their body firing on all systems and help to prepare them for the day.
Make sure your child drinks some water when they get up in the morning. Being hydrated will help your child feel awake as they get ready for school. A glass of water before breakfast is best. If you really want to make sure your child is hydrated before school, have them drink a glass when they get up and another glass with breakfast.
The image featured at the top of this post is ©iStock.com/Antonio_Diaz.