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  • 5 Expert-Recommend Ways to Get Your Preschooler to Sleep Better

    Is it a struggle to wake your kids up in the morning? Are they still wide awake at midnight? Our sleep experts suggest ways you can put bedtime battles to rest.
    by Jaclyn Lutanco-Chua . Published Feb 17, 2018
5 Expert-Recommend Ways to Get Your Preschooler to Sleep Better
PHOTO BY paulaphoto/iStock
  • “Early to bed, early to rise,” is not just a line of a popular nursery rhyme, it should also be the mantra that everyone—young and old alike—follow if they want to be healthy. Unfortunately, the worsening traffic situation in Metro Manila is forcing us to wake our kids up even earlier than usual so that they can make it to school on time. The result: kids who are puyat.

    “In the long run, lack of sleep or poor quality of sleep can hamper brain development, mood, creativity, behavior, and may even predispose the child to obesity,” says Dr. Jonalyn Ang, a pediatric neurologist and sleep specialist at Cardinal Santos Medical Center in San Juan, and Medical Center in Taguig.

    But what if you can’t enforce “early to bed, early to rise” because your child insists on staying up until midnight to wait for you or your husband to come home? Or you have difficulty waking him in the morning because “he is not a morning person”? Here are some things you can do:

    1. Enforce regular sleeping hours.
    This means making sure your child is tucked in at around the same time, every time, whether it’s a school day, a weekend, or even when on vacation. Bedtime will depend on his age and what time he needs to wake up for school. The American Academy of Sleep Medicine recommends that children get the following amount of sleep every night:
    Newborns - 10 to 19 hours (average 13.5 to 14 hours)
    Infants (2-12 months) - 10 to 12 hours
    Toddlers (1-3 years) - 10 to 12 hours 
    Preschoolers (3-5 years) - 10 to 11 hours 
    School age (6-12 years) - 10 to 11 hours 
    Adolescents - 9-10 hours

    In the morning, wake them up at the same time as well, although sleeping in may be allowed on weekends. “But make sure the difference in waking times between weekdays and weekends is not more than two hours,” adds Dr. Ang. 

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    If you have difficulty waking your child in the morning, or if he is sluggish, it is not because he is “not a morning person” or “tulog mantika,” says sleep coach Gabrielle Weil—it simply means he needs to go to bed earlier. “A child who is getting enough sleep will be able to wake up on his own at the time that you need him to, and he will be happy doing it,” she adds. Dr. Ang also suggests that you have the child assessed by a specialist, to rule sleep disorders as the cause.


    If your child occasionally misses a few hours of sleep because of a party, or because of time differences during vacation, that is okay, assures Weil. “As long as the other routines are in place, like eating at the relevant times and getting enough sunshine in the daytime, then the body will adjust and everything will eventually fall into place after a few days,” she says. 

    2. Set a bedtime routine involving calm activities such as bathing, reading stories, etc.
    “No caffeine (chocolates, tea, coffee, or soda) three to four hours before sleeping. And the hour before bed should be a quiet time—do not expose them to anything stimulating, including television and gadgets,” reminds Dr. Ang.

    3. Make sure he takes a nap, especially for kids up to 5 years of age.
    “Younger kids need more sleep because their brain is still developing,” says Dr. Ang. Do not be tempted to forego naptime in the hopes that your child will go asleep earlier in the evening. “On the contrary, cutting off naps will increase their crankiness, which will persist until night time and make their sleep worse,” she points out. She adds that it doesn’t matter what time or how long they nap in the afternoon, as long as they don’t sleep past 5pm. “Wake them up before 5pm, otherwise it will be hard for them to fall asleep at night,” she stresses. 

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    4. Give him regular exercise and exposure to sunlight during the day.
    Not only does playing outside make them tired, it releases endorphins that make them feel happy and soothed. Sunlight also produces melatonin, the hormone that regulates the body’s circadian rhythm.

    5. Be a good example.
    “Like all other routines, children adapt to their parents’ schedule,” says Dr. Ang. “If daddy comes home late from work and wants to spend some quality time with his child, do something relaxing like reading a bedtime story. Reserve the horseplay for weekends,” she adds.

    “Many parents fail to understand how much children really need to sleep,” laments Weil. “This is because the negative effects are not seen right away and only show up later in life.” Instead of playing at bedtime, Weil suggests that parents let the child sleep early so that he can wake early and join them for breakfast. Eating meals is a fundamental bonding experience and has been proven to improve mental health.


    “Ultimately, getting good sleep is a basic human need, just like food or water,” says Weil. “If a child is well rested, he is on the road to becoming a happy, self-confident, well-adjusted individual.” 

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