So, as the UK’s families are advised that youngsters need sufficient sleep each night, here are some tips that might help your child get into a good routine from an early age.
1. Don’t give children big meals close to bedtime, and don’t give them anything containing caffeine within six hours of bedtime.
2. Tell your child that bedtime is in five minutes, or offer a once-only choice: ‘Would you rather go now instead?’
3. Establish a consistent and relaxing pre-bedtime routine of around 20 minutes that ends in your child’s bedroom. Avoid scary stories or watching TV shows. Instead, read a book - and preferably an old favourite rather than a new one because familiarity helps to relax.
4. Avoid making singing or rocking your child to sleep part of the routine, if only because you’ll be doing the same in the middle of the night if they wake up.
5. Ensure your child is comfortable. Clothes and blankets should not restrict movement, and the bedroom temperature shouldn’t be too warm or too cold.
6. If your child calls for you after you’ve left his room, wait a few seconds before answering, so reminding him that he should be asleep. He might even fall back asleep while he is waiting for you!
7. If your child comes out of the room after you’ve put him to bed, walk him back and gently but firmly remind him that it’s past bedtime.
8. Don’t let your child take too many ‘toy pets’ to bed. While a stuffed animal can make it easier for your child sleep, too many toys can make it harder.
9. Don’t dismiss bedtime fears, but rather talk about them with your child. Hopefully simple reassurance will work. If not, trying ‘appointing’ a special toy to stand guard at night or spray the room with a quick burst of ‘anti-monster spray’ before bed (simple air freshener will ward off most imaginary beats!)