Sleeping improves children’s brain and health

The latest research on the BBC news and the Daily Express yesterday was all about sleep requirements for children.  It seems that sleep experts have proved that a regular sleep routine for children and sleeping 9 to 10 hours a night (more than 10 hours for under 4 years old) is beneficial in more than one way.  Not only does it give you rest but it helps your body to grow, helps you relax, and reduces the chances of obesity, heart disease, diabetes and mental illness later.

The experts suggested what all new mothers are told – set a regular bedtime routine. They also tested and proved that the new routine worked with a number of parents.  All agreed that although it was difficult to start with the routine of a set bedtime when you turn off the tv and the xbox or playstation, go upstairs, bath, have a bed time story and then tuck them into bed definitely helped to calm the children down, helped reduce the stress in the family, helped the children be a lot calmer at home and school and probably aided their education and concentration too. 

I have experienced all these problems when my boys were younger and agree whole heartedly. The oldest woke 2 hourly until he was 2 and then stayed wide awake until 11pm most nights until we got tough.  We ended up deciding that the “don’t go back downstairs after the bath” worked well along with the bedtime story to slow the pace down and get him off to sleep more soundly and quicker.  He was then not crabby at all the next day.  The only thing we have to watch is summer holidays when some families routines go to pot.  For us bedtime tends to be stretched a bit later too but we still apply the same bedtime routine as in term time, just an hour later.

A child of any age can also be stimulated with computers and xbox or the like as you will see I also found to my detriment recently with my blog on xbox the curse of my life!  The middle child had the same problem which was progressively getting worse over the last year.  I blame it on the fighting games many 10 to 16 year olds are into these days and of course all the friends have them don’t they!  We are now well back on track and in fact to my shock he is trying to sell his xbox to raise money for more tennis gear! How?

The change came after advice from an educational psychologist friend which was invaluable.  I had to remove the xbox at least one hour prior to bed time as it stimulates the brain.  The same with any electronic equipment like DS, playstation, or even the computer or ipod.  Also I was to remove it for lack of following instructions of any sort like when to come off the xbox for example. If he was even 2 minutes over what we had mutually agreed were the set 1 or 2 hours a day at the agreed time of day then the xbox would get unplugged and removed from the house for up to a week but definately no less than 2 days. I used the 2 day rule as a trial.  The rule had to be applied with exactly the same words and for exactly the same length of time and in the same way each time to be consistent.   Low and behold – it worked!  And it worked within around 2 weeks.   I was amazed and I did let my friend know how pleased I was with the results. I just didn’t think it would work so fast. 

The tricks to this method, though, if anyone wants to try are:

1 you have to agree the time the child is allowed on the equipment  with your child and in advance and the time covers each day and weekend so they know the whole week’s allowance

2 the time has to be convenient with family timings of meals, social events, and ending more than an hour prior to bed time

3 the equipment has to be completely unplugged and removed from the house if rules or times are broken (other rules that you can use this for you see are for bad language or whatever you think appropriate)

4 the child has to be told all the rules in advance and this includes the fact that if the word xbox or can I have it back or anything remotely about that topic is mentioned they lose that item for an additional 2 days, and each time it is mentioned another 2 days are added. The idea being that the item is then returned on your terms in your time when and only when it has not been mentioned at all for 2 days.

5  You have to give a warning when they go on their game like “remember you have one hour and not a minute more and when I tell you the time is up then the time is up in 2 minutes then it is up in 2 minutes”

6 You MUST follow through and you must be consistent and follow the same rules as you set, not a minute out!

Believe me it works. It leads to a much happier and less tired child as well as the rest of the family. It helps them sleep better (no night terrors, a subject for another blog sometime I guess, and no broken sleep for the child and the parent) and no crabby early morning “I’m not going to school, I’m too tired” or the like. And on the subject of growing?  Any one who has seen the height of my three would laugh at that one, always in the back of the middle row in school photos as they are so tall!  I cannot testify for their improved brain power or height really but I do know that we are all much happier and calmer and I salute the advice given but just wish I had done it a lot earlier.

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