- Wind Down
Like adults, children need to prepare their minds for sleep, says psychiatrist Lim Boon Leng from Dr BL Lim Centre For Psychological Wellness at Gleneagles Medical Centre. Start the winding down process at least an hour before bedtime and do quiet activities like reading, getting your child to brush her teeth, take a warm bath and change into his pyjamas, or share goodnight hugs and kisses. Start this routine around the same time every night and keep it consistent so her mind and body will follow.
- Bond Before Bedtime
Dr Lim believes that when a child feels loved and reassured, she is more relaxed and will therefore find it easier to fall asleep. Over time, she will be able to go to bed even without the physical presence of a parent. “Enjoy light, heart-to-heart chats or sing to your child in bed, and avoid long, serious conversations and stimulating or strenuous activities.”
- Have Dinner Early
If your little one goes to bed hungry or stuffed, she may find it difficult to fall asleep and may even experience stomach discomfort during the night. Make sure she has dinner three to four hours before bedtime so that by the time she hit the sack, she feels comfortable and satisfied. Children above six months old should not have night feedings, says Dr Jenny Tang, medical director at the SBCC Baby and Child Clinic and Asthma, Lung, Sleep, and Allergy Centre in Gleneagles Medical Centre. “Night feedings do not improve the quality and quantity of sleep. Plus, unnecessary feedings may increase bed-wetting episodes and cause more disturbed sleep during the night,” she says.
- Remove All Gadgets
Don’t read to your child in bed from a tablet. In fact, he shouldn’t be using any gadgets in bed, including watching TV. If he does, he will be conditioned into thinking that the bed is the place to be active and alert. “Research shows that using such devices at night increases the risk of insomnia and is detrimental to sleep quality. The devices emit a strong blue light that affects our circadian rhythm and suppresses sleep hormone levels in our brain,” says Dr Lim. So hide the iPad one or two hours before bedtime.
- Invest In A Good Mattress
Purchase an anti-allergen and dust mite-proof mattress to minimise allergic conditions that can affect sleep quality. Stuff toys may also trigger sinus problems during the night. As your child’s body is still developing, he needs a firm but comfortable mattress, like an innerspring mattresses, which provides good support. “Foam mattresses aren’t recommended for children as their bodies are changing,” says Robert-Jan Meijers, group market and product-development director of Serta International.
- Make It Comfortable
Your child’s room should be cool, not cold, advises Dr Kenny Pang of Asia Sleep Centre. Anywhere between 24 deg C and 26 deg C is ideal. The room should also be dark, but if your little one is afraid of the dark, switch on a nightlight or a small table lamp.
- Keep It Consistent
Stick to regular nap times and make sure your child goes to bed and wakes up at around the same time every day – even on weekends, says Dr Tang. “When it comes to naps, avoid long naps or naps too close to bedtime, as these interferes with her ability to fall asleep later.”
- Avoid Co-Sleeping
Don’t let her crawl into your bed. And don’t doze off with her in her bed. Dr Tang says, “Co-sleeping infancies are associated with poorer-quality sleep and more frequent night arousals. And when your child is older, you will have difficulty getting her to sleep in her own bed or room.”
Text: Sasha Gonzales, Young Parents, May 2014/Additional Reporting: Sylvia Ong