Sleeping is a learnt behaviour and parents should begin setting a sleep pattern for toddlers as young as six to eight weeks old for optimum developmental growth, advise experts. Understanding the need for proper sleep among toddlers and children, the British Orchard Nursery organised a ‘sleep therapy session’ to educate parents on importance of a full night, restful sleep in youngsters. The session highlighted the various ways to inculcate good sleeping habits to help parents overcome the common challenges and issues that they face. Parents were also given an opportunity to share their personal concerns and discuss their child’s sleep behaviour on one-on-one basis.
In a child, disrupted sleep or deprivation can often result in problems such as lack of retention power, hyperactivity, violent outburst and negative moods and the risk of becoming overweight, obese and diabetic. Recent studies also claim that just one hour of sleep loss at night can set back cognitive abilities by two years, meaning that the child’s performance will be that of someone two years younger. Sleep loss decreases the body’s ability to extract glucose from the bloodstream, and the lack of this basic energy affects the brain’s prefrontal cortex. This is the part that streamlines our thought processes, reasoning and perceives consequences of our actions. Consequently, tired children tend to lose focus, get distracted more easily and eventually face difficulty memorising what they learn. It also slows down their problem solving skills.
As per the experts, children up to the age of 1 years need around 14 – 15 hours, while
1-3 year-olds need 12 -14 hours and 3-6 year-olds should get at least 10 – 12 hours of sleep per day.
“Proper and restful sleep is just as important in a child’s development, but one that is often ignored or overlooked,” commented Dr Vandana Gandhi, CEO and Founder of British Orchard Nursery. “This is particularly important in toddlers and young children since these are optimum learning years when their motor and language skills develop. However, parents often face challenges in maintaining a routine that allows their children a complete night’s sleep. We hope that the sleep therapy session conducted by British Orchard Nursery will help parents devise a regular pattern that will discipline their children and encourage them to sleep on time.”
Encouraging children to sleep on their own and in separate rooms brings its own set of challenges for parents. The session advised parents to ‘prepare’ young children on any change in routine such as a new bed or a room, gradually removing the distance. Children should be encouraged to be part of the new routine, and create a familiar surroundings in the new setting for easy transition. For example, they can bring in their favourite toys or even the same cot/bed that they are used to sleeping in for comfort.
Identifying the factors that play a role in the quality of sleeping, the session cautioned parents against the excessive screen time that children are allowed nowadays. Recent studies suggest that the light emitting from electronic screens tends to lower levels of the sleep-regulating hormone ‘melatonin’. It is essential that even parents curtail their screen time when putting their children to bed. Parents need to keep a watch over their child for signs of tiredness and fatigue, and put the children in bed at the right time. If a child remains awake longer than recommended time, he/she may find it hard to settle down and relax, and may even fight sleep later in the day.
“A daily routine is a must if you want your child to follow a proper sleeping pattern,” advised Ms Julie Mallon, Sleep Consultant and Baby and Toddler Calm Practitioner, who conducted the session, “Bed time should follow a series of consecutive activities, such as a bath followed by a story, since most children thrive on a set routine. Moreover, parents should watch out for signs of distraction, such as excuses to leave the bed on pretext of using the bathroom, thirst and hunger. Very often toddlers use delaying tactics because they don’t want to be separated from parents. In order to fall asleep a child needs to feel safe and secure and if we look behind the behaviour this will often give us the key to the real reason the child is unable to sleep. Similarly, instead of bribing the child to sleep they should be rewarded when they wake up to reinforce the good behaviour.”
The choice of food for dinner at night is also very important since a child burns a lot of energy during the night as the brain grows in that period. Suggested food for dinner includes honey, chicken, turkey, avocado, smoothie, and yogurt while foods such as aubergines, peperoni, or any kind of processed meats may have an adverse effect.
British Orchard Nursery has been a forerunner in conducting UK certified and KHDA approved training courses for teachers and parents alike across the UAE. Through these workshops, the nursery has created a parent-child-teacher bond that is instrumental in holistic child development. The Nursery is the Middle East's first largest pre-school chain to be ISO 14001, 18001 and ISO 9001 quality certified.