Have you noticed lately that your child is taking longer to fall asleep at bedtime? Has your child been a good sleeper and is suddenly waking in the night? Even wanting to crawl in bed with you? Is your child suddenly afraid of sleeping alone?
You are not alone. This regression is much more common than you think.
This age brings so many new challenges. Likely, your child is participating in some sort of extra-curricular activity or sport and is spending more time away from home, away from their parents and family. Homework becomes more of a regular occurrence and social responsibilities add pressure to their lives.
They are little people in big bodies and start to become hyper-aware of the world. Their family dynamic, their friends, things they see on the news. It is a milestone for children that can be very difficult as most children don’t quite have the coping skills and maturity to process it all.
On top of all of this, your child is experiencing some physiological changes in their brain which ultimately leads to changes to their sleep.
This doesn’t mean you just have to accept this phase without action. In fact, not getting involved and taking action can have your child on a path of sleep deprivation that can have a lasting effect.
Most of the adults I work with report that they did not sleep well as children. This is why I feel so strongly about making sure we prioritize sleep for our children. It really is a gift that they will benefit from for the rest of their lives.
My own children, who had always been great sleepers, reached this age and suddenly would take a really long time to fall asleep. Lots of stalling and excuses for not going to sleep, or even staying in their beds. I had never co-slept but suddenly had 2 boys that wanted to sleep in my bed.
I noticed significant changes in their behaviour during the day. My sweet boys turned into angry, defiant, protesters-of-everything, balls of emotion.
After a few weeks, I decided my kids needed to be re-sleep-trained. I know it sounds bizarre to sleep train an 8 and 9-year-old, however, it was exactly what they needed. I truly believe it is never too early or too late to teach your children to sleep well. And every once in a while they may need a refresher.
If your child is struggling to sleep I recommend starting with these tips to get things back on track:
Bedtime Routine – This is the most important part of healthy sleep for everyone. Babies, children, teenagers, and adults. Our bodies need transition time from days activities to falling asleep. When we don’t go through this process our bodies won’t be ready when we shut the lights off and it will take a long time to fall asleep.
Have a Regular Bedtime – Our bodies also really love consistency. It is best to go to bed at the same time each night and wake at the same time each morning. Sleeping in on the weekends can lead to a brutal Monday morning. If your child stays up a little later on the weekends (which you should try to avoid), have them wake at the same time and take a short nap if necessary. And don’t make it 2 nights in a row or you will have a cranky kid for the next week!
Spend One-On-One Time With Your Child – If your child is struggling with sleep it is likely affecting them in multiple ways. They may have legitimate fears when they are going to sleep. It may seem like a stalling tactic at first but if you take the time and listen to your child you will probably find there is an element of actual fear.
You can cook, or bake or play cards. Any time spent with your child where you have the opportunity to communicate will help them feel secure and probably make it easier for them to turn to you when they are struggling with something.
Breaking down stresses into chunks throughout the day will help avoid an overwhelming amount of stress at bedtime.
Find Relaxation Techniques – Everyone thinks “What does an 8-year-old have to be stressed about?”. Believe it or not – a lot!
Your 8-year-old is like a little sponge. Again, becoming aware of grown-up issues without the tools to process can leave your child with a lot of scary questions. And when do they usually deal with these questions and grown-up issues?
When it’s dark and quiet and they are trying to go to sleep.
Everything they have been able to push aside in their busy lives all day will suddenly come flooding forward the minute they hit the pillow. The goal is to relax and release so your body can easily transition into sleep.
- Reading with your child can be very helpful. Make it easy and read to them. Choose a book together and read while they are in bed.
- Meditation – this is a great way to become calm before sleep. There are many age-appropriate ones that your child will actually enjoy
- Tickle their backs/rub their feet. Staying in their bedroom with them for a bit of time before the lights go out can really help your child feel safer when it’s time to go to sleep. This is so much nicer than screaming for an hour for your kid to stay in their bedroom. Don’t make a habit of staying too long or you will end up in there all night.
Dealing with sleep issues is never easy for anyone. If one person in your house isn’t sleeping well it will affect everyone in the house in some way.
If your child isn’t sleeping well, you aren’t sleeping well and I think we can all agree that we are much better parents when we are well-rested.
If you want to know if Sleep Wise can help your child you can schedule a FREE 15-minute phone call at www.sleepwise.ca.
You can also join our Facebook group Back to Sleep with Sleep Wise where you can find tips and ask your questions