As much as our hectic, 2016-era selves hate to admit it, we all know at some level that our busy lives, lack of proper nutrition, and inconsistency in our children’s schedules can often wreak havoc on their sleep.
While of course the odd late bedtime, sugary treat, or hectic day is to be expected and will not ruin your child’s overall health, constant patterns of sleep-deprivation and sliding nutrition can make it very difficult for your child to sleep well, and are the things bedtime battles and 5-am wakes are made of.
Looking to mess with your child’s heathy sleep? Here’s how. (Looking to avoid wreaking havoc on rest? There are some tips below to avoid these pitfalls too!):
Make cola and fruit punch the drink of choice: Sugary beverages are sure to have your little one up for hours and bouncing off the walls, if that’s the evening you were aiming for.
Quick fix: Avoid sweetened beverages – It might seem simple to stock the fridge with juice boxes and cans of soda, but I recommend avoiding them as much as possible. Not only can those extra calories cause unhealthy weight gain, but all that sugar really adds up over the course of the day and can cause a hyper toddler at bedtime. Hydrate with water whenever possible, and with milk at meals.
Fill your kiddo with empty calories: Processed foods filled with carbs and lacking protein are likely to mean a hangry toddler come bedtime. So, if you were hoping for a 7 p.m. battle, this is a quick route to get there!
Quick fix: Avoid processed foods – Often, with busy schedules, it can be much easier to grab a packaged snack for your child than a fresh or homemade option. The problem is that a lot of processed snacks are full of carbs and sugar and really lacking in protein. In order to get a great night’s sleep (or a great nap each day!), children need full tummies, and protein will help keep them comfy and full for sleep. If you are offering sugary treats in the day (who doesn’t love hot chocolate at the rink?!), try to cut this off by mid to late afternoon, to help ensure your child is not wound up on sugar leading to bedtime. And instead of sugary desserts after supper, go for a little walk around the neighbourhood together as a family instead – it’s not only a distraction from dessert, but also a great time of togetherness for families! If you do need to offer a pre-bed snack, choose carb/protein combos like a peanut butter sandwich on whole wheat bread with a glass of milk, an apple with cheese, yogurt with granola, or a date muffin with a glass of milk.
Go straight to bed from a game of freeze-tag: Giving your child no heads’ up that bedtime is on its way, and expecting him to hit the hay with zero wind-down routine, is a sure way to have a meltdown on your hands come bedtime (and this is what all parents want, right?!)
Quick fix: Have a bedtime routine, and stick with it! It’s easy to get out of your usual routines when activities (and life in general!) get in the way, but it’s very important to avoid missing meals, and to pack proper snacks for road trips, days on the go, etc. If your child has an unbalanced lunch or skips it altogether, a long, restorative nap is going to be tough to come by. Same thing at night – we want our little ones filling up properly on balanced suppers in order to enter a deep, restful sleep for the night.
Overschedule: Want to create a monstrously overtired child? Max out his schedule with daily extra-curriculars and watch the exhaustion ensue!
Quick fix: Don’t overschedule!: Like just about everything in life, extra-curriculars are great… in moderation. Try limiting activities to one or two per week, for example. Particularly for young children, avoid activities that consistently involve late-evening practices and matches that are going to mean your child is in bed late and not getting restorative sleep to keep up to his hectic schedule.
My team and I provide loads of free sleep advice on our Facebook page (www.facebook.com/weesleep). We welcome you to follow our tribe of sleep-passionate (or deprived) parents around the globe as we share tips, stories and the straight goods on sleep at WeeSleep.ca and follow me on Instagram and Twitter so we can rock this #sleeprevolution together!