A child who doesn’t sleep properly is probably every parent’s nightmare. Research has shown that children who don’t get enough sleep or suffer from sleep disorders tend to have problems with their academics. In addition, poor sleep results in reduced attentiveness, restlessness, and aggressive behavior. On the average, the typical school age child will need about 9 hours of night time sleep. In today’s urban society, this may seem unachievable considering the multiple challenges such as earlier school resumption times, traffic challenges, expanding school curriculum and homework schedules, and the lure of the internet, social media and entertainment. Ultimately though, there is wisdom in considering strategies to improve sleep habits and harness the benefits of healthy sleep in our children. As parents and guardians, we need to look into the sleep habits of our children, identify factors that reduce the quality and quantity of their sleep, and find innovative ways to take back precious sleep time from the clutches of modern society.

Here are some useful tips, promoted by the World Association of Sleep Medicine, and referred to as the 10 commandments of sleep in children.

1. Make sure your child gets enough sleep by setting an age-appropriate bedtime and wake-up time.
2. Set consistent bedtime and wake-up times on both weekdays and weekends. This consistency will regulate the signals sent to the ‘biological clock’ which controls sleep.

3. Establish a consistent bedtime routine that includes “quiet time.” Priming the body for bedtime and avoiding overstimulation by winding down helps children sleep better.

4. Encourage your child to fall asleep independently. This means sleeping without the help of music, video games, and yes, even books or novels, as these may have the reverse effect of keeping the child alert.

5. Avoid bright light at bedtime and during the night (including light from television or computer screens) and increase light exposure in the morning (e.g. drawing the curtain open).

6. Keep all electronics, including televisions, computers and cell phones, out of the bedroom and limit use of electronics before bedtime.
7. Maintain a regular daily schedule, including consistent mealtimes. This approach will help plan time for activities and sleep.

8. Have an age-appropriate nap schedule. This will vary according to the age of the child, but the typical school age child can nap for 45 minutes to an hour in the late afternoon.

9. Ensure plenty of exercise and time spent outside during the day. However, exercising in the late evening can make it difficult to fall asleep, as exercise can have a stimulating effect.

10. Eliminate foods and beverages containing caffeine. Sleep well Nigeria!