What happens most nights is not magical.
Each night, as bedtime looms, you feel like you step into the twighlight zone, your sweet little “angel”, turns into a “monster”.
The nice word to describe what happens, is bedtime resistance.
The faces of bedtime resistance
Bedtime resistance, is more common than one would think – 25 % of little ones are having trouble going off to sleep.
- Some kids just REFUSE. The “I AM NOT GOING” message is accompanied by loud outbursts and sulking. The resulting tantrum is never pretty.
- Some kids REFUSE more subtly. They go through the motions – but drag out the process. They need, another story. Then they need a glass of water. Then they need the bathroom. (No Mom in her right mind can disregard this one).
- Some kids GO TO BED quietly. You’ve put them to bed, but when you turn around, they’re out of bed and under your feet.
Bedtime RESISTANCE – can cause YOU to crumble.
Slip sliding behaviour
And it can be an ominous sign of things to come…. because brain’s need sleep to clean up.
- Weight troubles – Early to bed is the secret to raising a skinny child
- Academic troubles – Bright sparks go to bed at the same time every night
- Behaviour troubles –
- A life time of being an insomniac?
So why do little angels, turn into demons at bedtime ?
Because they’re not sleepy
As an adult, you get to turn in when you’re tired. Unless you have way too much to do, then you keep going, until you finish or pass out from exhaustion. The point is…. it is ultimately your CALL. Although your boss can have a great deal of influence.
The time your toddler / pre-schooler goes to bed is ALSO, your CALL. The trouble is, your CALL may not line up with your little one’s biology.
This is the finding of a group of researchers from CU-Boulder.
The body’s bedtime
For a body to be ready to go to bed – the night valet, melatonin needs to come on duty. The principle applies to BIG bodies and little bodies.
The Boulders team, decided to track melatonin levels in a group of healthy toddlers. The idea was to ascertain when little ones were biologically “sleepy” and to relate this to bedtime behaviours.
Don’t worry – no toddler was harmed in the experiment. Melatonin levels were measured in the child’s saliva. The saliva sample was gathered by a team of “sleep fairies”, who persuaded several of the children in the study, to chew on a dry dental cotton roll and then spit it out, several times on a single evening.
Sleep fairies, maybe they were magicians !
Bedtime is relative
Biological bed time was highly variable, each child was a little different. For most of the kids, the peak happened around 7.40 pm.
- When Mom’s bedtime, matched the child’s biological clock – bedtime was an enjoyable experience. In a jiffy, junior was cavorting in dreamland.
- When Mom’s bedtime did not match the child’s biological clock – the going to bed was DIFFICULT. Falling a sleep took 40-60 minutes.
The bigger the mismatch, the worse the experience.
Obey the biological clock
Don’t worry, this does not mean, your toddler decides when to go to bed. You still get to be the PARENT, but you need to supervise the activities of melatonin.
Fortunately, this is not that hard to do.
Melatonin is a hormonal wimp. He is scared of his own shadow. When there is blue light around – melatonin hides in it’s special cupboard, the pineal gland. It only ventures out, when it is dark or the prevailing lights, have a reddish tinge.
Make sure your little one is exposed to sunlight, early in the morning, open the curtains as soon as they wake up. This sends melatonin scurrying for cover, signalling the brain when the day has started. The brain is then able to judge when bedtime should happen – it knows little brains need at least ten plus hours of sleep, each night.
In the hour or so before you want junior to GO TO BED, limit their exposure to blue light – that means, no TV, no playing with your tablet or cell phone. Avoid stimulating activities. Ideally dim the lights, if you can, do story time by candle light.
Avoid the bedtime blues
Don’t be a victim of biology, synch your child’s body clock with bedtime. You’ve got the power to avoid those bedtime blues.
PS. If you use a night light in the room – only red light nights can protect kids from the boogeyman
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