Is it a challenge for you to get your child to sleep?
Apparently, to a lot of parents, it is. It is doubly unfortunate as napping not only means rest for the child, but for parents as well. Pediatrician Dr. Anna Lopez-Gabriel tells us that sleeping contributes significantly not only to a child’s normal health but to his behavior as well, and that napping during the day revitalizes and recharges both brain and body.
According to Marc Weissbluth, MD, author of Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child, “Sleep is the power source that keeps your mind alert and calm. Every night and at every nap, sleep recharges the brain's battery. A good sleep increases your attention span and allows you to be physically relaxed and mentally alert at the same time.”
How much nap a child should be taking depends on his age. It is normal for newborns to be asleep for most part of the day. Daytime napping is significantly reduced at around 6 months to roughly 2 hours in the morning and 2 hours in the afternoon. By the time they reach 2 years old, most will nap once at day at an average of 2 hours. At 4-5 years old, most children will completely forgo napping, but will have an average of 12 hours sleep at night.
He also notes that daytime naps serve a different function from night sleep. Our bodies have a circadian rhythm (an internal clock) and it is important that the timing of sleep and naps is in sync with this clock so that the child gets the optimum benefit from his sleep.
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Dr. Gabriel says that children will most often give out nonverbal clues that they need rest, such as rubbing of the eyes, wanting to be carried, crying or being irritable. Bigger and older kids may be hyperactive or aggressive when they are sleepy. She advises to watch out for these signals because most children will not say it out loud. She gives the following tips to help put the little one to sleep:
• Do not turn nap time into a battle. Just try to set a routine and make it a positive experience for the child. They will be able to adapt to a set schedule if it is followed daily.
• 30 minutes before nap time, make the setting conducive for sleeping. Make sure they have had their meal. Weissbluth warns us that healthy sleep is measured not just by the duration of sleep but the quality as well. A restful 30-minute nap is better than a 2-hour restless shut-eye.
• For babies and toddlers, set some cues for them to know that it's naptime. Dim the lights, play soothing music, turn off the tv, read them a quiet story.
• For bigger kids, if they refuse to sleep, consider having quiet time, like reading on the bed or letting them play quietly. A lot of times, these may eventually make them fall asleep.
Napping and/or sleeping can indeed be a challenge, but once overcome, the benefits for both parent and child are wonderful -- or rather, restful.
Resource person: Anna Lopez-Gabriel, M.D. Department of Pediatrics, 259, Hall C, Makati Medical Center #2 Amorsolo St., Makati City
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