Is your child showing signs of tiredness this new year? It’s hardly surprising. Christmas can be so overwhelming for children. All of the lights, sounds and smells stimulate their senses and excite their brains. Days are filled with fun activities and often their familiar routines take a back seat. Before you know it, your child can be over tired and heading into a spiral of poor sleep in the new year.
Have you noticed it lately? Maybe your little one is more difficult to settle at bedtime, or maybe they have started waking more frequently during the night? Perhaps you are seeing more emotional outbursts or melt downs during the day? These are all classic signs of over tiredness which often appear in January (and other busy times).
And this year is even more difficult with the added pressure of a global pandemic, a national lockdown and home learning to throw you off balance!
If your little one becomes over tired, it actually changes how they fall asleep. For some children they become so over tired that their body produces the stress hormone Cortisol. This floods their body like a shot of adrenalin and keeps them going, often making them appear not tired and full of energy. Some children start to run around, tumble about or seem slightly ‘wired’. It’s not until the hormone level subsides that they then crash to sleep in moments.
Quickly crashing to sleep, changes the structure of their sleep; leading to lighter, less deep, shorter sleep. This limits the overall quality and quantity of their sleep, causing them to become more tired – and so it continues.
So here are my best tips for reducing tiredness and getting your little one’s sleep back on track this new year.
1) Early nights.
Bring bedtime forward by 15 – 20 minutes for four consecutive nights to replenish their sleep tank. It may seem like a small change, but it really will make a huge difference to their sleep structure and the overall quality of their sleep.
2) Bedtime routine
I say it all the time, but make sure you are doing a very simple, calming bedtime routine to lead into a good sleep. Don’t make it too long or complicated – just 3 or 4 steps in the same order each night is fine. Perhaps a warm bath, bedtime snack or milk feed (depending on their age), teeth brush, and cuddle up with a calming story.
Don’t forget to make the sleep space calm and dimly lit with no bright lights, screens, music or entertainment.
3) Snuggle up
Use bedtime as a chance to refill their love tank and feel emotionally reconnected. Have a cuddle, reconnect and let your child unload any thoughts or stories from the day. Remember to set a time limit in your mind and stick to it. Don’t allow them to talk for too long or become too animated. This is a calming wind down, designed to clear their mind and feel your presence. The current situation is so busy and fraught, set aside this time to really focus on your child and their feelings; you’ll reap the rewards during the night and you’ll both feel really great too!
4) Eat well
Make sure that the evening meal and any supper or snack is nutritious and has plenty of slow release nutrients that will fill them up and sustain them overnight. Avoid processed foods or high sugar content that will send them sky high when you are trying to settle them down. Bananas are an easy snack that are packed with relaxing potassium and magnesium that will improve the quality of your child’s sleep. Other great choices include chicken, cheese, tuna, eggs, nuts or milk to boost Serotonin levels. And for Melatonin try cherries, apricots or raisins.
Now that Christmas is over, try to balance your time between learning, physical activity and some quiet downtime to rest, recover and process the stimulation. Try snuggling under a blanket to watch a family film, read some books or listen to music.
Christmas time can be physically and emotionally draining. Especially in these whirlwind times that we are living in right now. Try to be a little more patient and understanding, particularly at the end of the day when everyone is tired. I know that this is easier said than done but you will be glad that you did. Prevent bedtime battles with kindness and understanding, but do keep to your house rules and limits. You can be kind without opening the flood gates to chaos.
7) Plan Ahead
Take a look at the upcoming weekly schedule and decide if it is just too busy for a small person to cope with. The demands we place on our children in lockdown can be just too much for them to manage. They don’t understand what’s happening in the wider world and why they can’t go back to their daily lives. Do you really need to do all of the activities, classes and learning each day? Can you build in some down time or time outdoors? Time in the outdoors is just as valuable as indoor learning and will help to improve your little one’s sleep too.
If your child is finding over tiredness a problem, book a free 15-minute chat with me to discover how I can help you and your child to enjoy better sleep. You can choose a suitable time by clicking here
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Happy New Year
Rachael, The Sleep Sanctuary
The Sleep Sanctuary is a Children’s Sleep Consultancy supporting tired parents to help their children sleep soundly and live healthier, happier lives