Helping children have a good night's sleep
To get a good night's sleep, children need relaxed parents and a sense of security. This instinctual need is hindered by busy activities throughout the day and "sleep training" at night.
During their first three years of life, children’s need for sleep is significantly greater than in adults, who generally make do with an average of eight hours of sleep. Newborns sleep on average 14.5 hours, although some sleep 20 and others only 11 hours. By the age of six months, they have more or less an established sense of day and night, with the largest “portion” of sleep occurring at night. Now they generally need a total of 13 hours of sleep, and 12 hours by the age of two. At the age of five, some children only need nine hours of sleep, while others become cranky if they don’t get 14 hours. And it’s perfectly normal for some three-year-olds to no longer want to nap, because they no longer need it. Meanwhile, there are four-year-olds who become intolerable for the rest of the day if they miss their nap. Sleep is as individual as the person, no matter what the age.
Rituals and rhythms help at bedtime
It becomes evident early on whether someone is a "lark" or "owl" – easily rising with the sun’s first rays and quickly tiring in the evening, or vice versa. The more we attune ourselves to our inner clock – to our own, as well as that of our children – and don’t ignore their signals, the more restful our sleep will be. But this might not always be possible in the morning or at night as we juggle our family, children and career. In this case, “it can be helpful to shift the sleeping ritual earlier or later in small steps,” suggests Dr. Renz-Polster. This can help a child to develop a stable sleep-wake rhythm. “Once their child is around half a year old, many parents notice that tiredness comes in waves,” he says. “It’s good if the child can relax at that moment, since the next “sleep window” will usually occur around 50 minutes later.” It can be helpful for parents to build their day around their child’s sleep rhythm, instead of forcing their child to adapt to theirs.