If your toddler’s sleep patterns worry you, and it is often a struggle to put her to sleep, you may doing something wrong. Poornima Makaram speaks to experts and parents to get advice on what constitutes good sleep hygiene.
Two year old Shreya is a testy child who refuses to sleep at night. Her mother Ramya Chandran struggles every day trying to get her to go to bed and late evenings soon transform the bedroom into a battleground. The constant tussles begin with cajoling and pleading, and end with fi nally losing losing patience and temper tantrums.
Is this the story of hour home as well? If yes, read for tips to inculcate better sleep hygiene in your family early on.
SET A RHYTHM
Bangalore-based paediatrician Dr Sandeep Jathanna believes it is very important to set a good rhythm so that your child gets enough sleep every night. “It is necessary for the child to be put to bed at the same time every evening in order to establish a good pattern,” he says. “This way, the child gets enough sleep at night, and is not cranky during the day. Between the ages of two and four, a child needs 10 to 12 hours of sleep every night in addition to one or two naps during the day.”
Dr Jathanna urges the setting up of a regular pattern which will signal sleeping time. “This could include giving the child a warm bath before putting her to bed. Ensure that you make her wear familiar and comfortable night clothes like pyjamas and t-shirt. A glass of warm milk with a cookie can be given, and the routine can end with brushing her teeth. Repeating the same pattern every day helps the child recognise bedtime, and will make going to sleep easier. The body recognises the pattern and begins to wind down accordingly,” he adds.
Web designer Ranjini Srinivasan always found it diffi cult to put her daughter Vinaya to sleep when she was a year and a half. The little one would drag the whole ‘putting to sleep’ exercise for nearly an hour before she fi nally relented. “It was an exasperating experience to get her to sleep. I kept trying different things to make the routine comfortable for her. Finally, I bought her a toy which emits a soft light. So, cloer to sleep time, we would switch off all the lights, put the toy next to her, and sing a familiar lullaby every night. After a while, the lullaby became her cue to go to sleep, with the familiar comforting toy right next to her.”
STOP THE STIMULATION
Dr Jathanna feels that stimulating activity should be off limits in the bedroom. He says, “No video games or television should be allowed before going to bed.” This is because any kind of visual stimulation makes it difficult for the child to wind down, says the paediatrician. “Narrating a bed-time story or singing a song works better,” he says. “If she wakes up in the middle of the night and calls out to you, just put her back to sleep without much ado. Do not offer a midnight snack or take her out of the room since that will make it very difficult for her to go back to sleep.”
Take for instance, software engineer Pragna Shetty’s son Chirag’s case. Chirag would wake up in the middle of the night quite often and his mum always had trouble putting him back to sleep. “When he woke up around midnight, my husband Shyam would still watching TV in the living room. The sound would percolate into the bedroom as well, and was perhaps the cause of disturbance. Soon, Chirag would be wide awake and wanting to go out and watch his favourite TV show,” says Pragna. “Sometimes, we would humour him and allow him to watch about 15 minutes of TV, but after this, it was always difficult to get him back to sleep for nearly an hour. At my insistence, Shyam began to wear headphones to mute out the sound, and then we found it much easier to put Chirag back to sleep in 10 minutes,”
she says. M&B
FOR GOOD SLEEP HYGIENE
• Make the bedroom a comfortable place with enough air circulation.
• Serve dinner at least an hour before bedtime.
• Avoid feeding sweets or sodas before bedtime.
• Don’t allow her to fall asleep in front of the television or in the living room as this disrupts regular sleeping habits.
• Give her a doll or toy, or even a blanket to make her feel secure is a good idea.
• If the child’s natural rhythm makes her sleep later, then start the process of putting her to sleep a little later, so that a lot of non sleep time is not spent on the bed.
• Don’t do other normal activities on the bed as this sends confl icting messages to the child about whether it is a sleep or a play zone.