“Pick your battles!” her mother said. “Take a deep breath Mama, and as many naps as you can.”
“That won't solve the sleeping problem, Mom. She needs to learn to sleep and listen!! She's been like this since birth! She doesn't seem to require sleep! But," she continued adamantly, "I think children do require sleep and a lot of it! When they don't get it, it messes with them the rest of the day. Everything gets affected!”
“Well, maybe it has something to do with her diet,” a friend suggested who was also present. “Drinks are full of caffeine, and can wind them up. Each child is different but I would watch that, and food dyes. I believe diet has tons to do with how people sleep in general, and that includes adults!”
I think my friend is right! As an adult I can clearly tell on those nights when I am stressed, I’ve eaten too late, too much, the wrong thing (sugar!), or otherwise alter my bedtime routine. I sleep fitfully and wake as tired as when I went to bed! If it's true for an adult, isn't it as likely for children?
There are several things you might want to look for if your child seems to have sleeping issues. Does your child fall asleep as soon as the car starts moving or wake up cranky in the morning, or need waking every morning? Are there times when spontaneous sleeping overtakes them? Are behaviors less than ideal? If you see these kinds of patterns in your child you might want to consider re-working their sleep habits. It is likely they are not getting their required sleep and a more structured bedtime may be warranted.
Another problem parents have is children waking during the night with all kinds of perceived maladies. It sounds odd, but the idea of being separated from a parent can cause an irrational fear, causing waking. Uncomfortable clothes, allergies, being too hot or cold, or even being in “light sleep” mode and hearing a noise can rouse them from their sleep.
But what about the child who doesn’t want to go to bed; who gets up repeatedly despite parental disapproval? For the parent dealing with this, it seems doubly difficult because the last thing a parent wants to do is punish a child right before they go to sleep. Sometimes the child just wants control over their environment and circumstances. It’s an attitude of “growing up.” Yet, as parents it is we who must decide on sleep routines, for the health of the child. While I would not encourage “compromising your authority” I suggest the possibility of allowing them to help decide what the bedtime routine will be. This will give them the impression of “being in control” even when they really aren’t! Also, limit snacking to an earlier hour, because food can affect sleep. Adjust bedtimes in small increments (like ten to fifteen minutes) instead of large ones. Once the desired bedtime is established, stick to the routine. Actually, kids appreciate it, even when they are unaware!