There are so many reasons a child won't go to bed. From the moment our babies are born, we spend a huge amount of time looking into good sleep routines, sleep training, getting our little ones to go to sleep, and then to sleep through the night. We begin to think a lot about the importance of good sleep, we fret and grumble when we have an interrupted night, and we are told to take naps if we can to bolster our sleep quota. We are hit with adverts telling us to use special mattresses and pillows, a certain type of light to use or not to use, not to use electronics close to bedtime (guilty as charged), and to create a soothing and calming bedroom environment. In this post, I'll be discussing the benefits of good sleep for both you and your child and why they might not want to go to sleep.
As parents, we all want our children to get a good night's sleep. As adults, we know how important sleep is, how essential it is to good health and vitality. I am a big believer in bedtime routines and ensuring my children maintain a predictable and calming bedtime. As I mentioned before in 18 ridiculous reasons why children wake at night my children have followed the same routine since they were 6 months old. This does not mean they are little angels and that they happily drift off to sleep each night. It also does not mean that they stay asleep all night, but it does mean that bedtime struggles are far less frequent and my children have little to no fall out from late nights.
It also doesn't mean that they don't “try it on” at bedtime. Even though they know the routine, they know what's expected, they understand what is expected, they still like to delay bedtime if they can. Why they do this is a mystery. I think it is a fear of missing out, the allure of what might happen while I'm asleep, the intrigue of what do grown-ups do when I'm asleep…
After chatting with some other parents, I found that we all have had similar excuses for not going to sleep from our children. Below are the reasons my own children have given me over the years.
In this post I discuss the following topics:
Some of these seem funny when written down and others just plain annoying, but all result in negative emotions at bedtime. To stop this from becoming a daily problem, I have taken the time to explain to my children the effects that a lack of sleep has on their emotional, social, and physical well being. We've had talks about how sleep improves mood, how it helps our memories, and improves concentration. We've discussed how our bodies grow and repair themselves while we sleep and that it gives our bodies a chance to de-stress.
I often remind them of these when they are playing up at bedtime. So often in fact, that my 5-year-old will say I'm going to sleep mum, I want to grow a bit more so I can be taller or I'll be told…I did hard work at school, so I'm going to sleep so my brain has time to organise the new information and can help me remember it in tomorrow's lesson.
Sometimes it is helpful to know about the average baby's sleep requirements so that you can stop comparing them to friends' children and wondering if your little one is different or abnormal. Sleep researchers have discovered that babies' sleep needs differ at different ages and of course that babies are individuals, just like adults, and have different personal sleep needs.
This list is meant to be a guide, so when looking at it, bear in mind that babies differ greatly and that it does not necessarily mean there is something wrong with your baby if he sleeps much more or much less than the average.
A healthy baby will take as much sleep as she needs, so don't worry that she is coming to harm.
Average Number of Hours Needed:
Age During the DAY At NIGHT
1 week 8 hours 8hours 30 min
4 weeks 6-7 hours 8-9 hours
3 months 5 hours 10 hours
6 months 4 hours 10 hours
9 months 2-3 hours 11hours
12 months 2 hours 30 min 11-12 hours
2 years 1 hour 15min 11-12 hours
3 years 1 11-12
4 years none 11-12
5 years none 11-12
Notice that as they get older the daytime nap gets shorter and sometimes falls away completely. However, if your 4-year-old needs a nap, it is fine to continue to do so…just because the average child may not need it, you should look at your own child's individual needs. If she is happy, alert, and thriving, then the amount she is taking is sufficient. If she seems grumpy and irritable, then perhaps she needs more.
If your child doesn't want to go to bed, take the time to talk about sleep and how good it is for them, especially at their young age. You'll be impressed with how much they understand and how they take it on board. If you can get them to see how sleep will make them more clever, stronger, healthier, and less moody, I guarantee you they'll soon quit their bedtime shenanigans.
We are obsessed with sleep. I mean, how many times can you honestly say your last words to your child or partner is “Sleep well” and the first ones in the morning are “How'd you sleep?” or “Did you sleep okay?” We talk about our sleep with friends. It is such a big part of everything. It affects our mood, our attitude about everything, our ability to function effectively in our daily lives, and our health.
We spend time worrying about sleep. Reading articles about sleep and wondering if we and our kids are getting too much, too little or if the quality of our sleep is good enough. I even wear a sleep tracker to bed…it, along with an app on my phone, tells me how much time I am in light sleep, deep sleep, and REM sleep. It buzzes me when it's bedtime and when it's time to get up. It also has a “coach” feature that gives me hints and tips on how to improve my sleep.
So why is sleep so important? What benefits does it hold for us?
Even though your body shuts off and recuperates while you sleep, your mind is surprisingly busy while you snooze. During sleep, you can strengthen memories or “practice” skills learned while you were awake (it’s a process called consolidation). This means sleep is especially important when you are in a learning environment or acquiring new skills.
Getting enough sleep helps your brain remember what you learn. This is true for adults and children so if you're studying, it's sensible to get some sleep and not to pull all-nighters!
Inflammation is linked to heart disease, stroke, diabetes, arthritis, and premature aging. Research indicates that people who get less sleep—six or fewer hours a night—have higher blood levels of inflammatory proteins than those who get more.
As a Psoriasis sufferer, not all the time, but I do experience flare-ups. One of the things my dermatologist said was to make sure I got enough sleep and tried to reduce inflammation in my body. Having taken this seriously (hence the sleep tracker) I have been clear now for almost 2 years! I attribute this to a huge overhaul of my diet and making an effort to sleep better and exercise more.
During sleep, your brain consolidates memories, making them stronger, and it also reorganises and restructures them, which can result in more creativity as well. It is almost like the mind does admin while you sleep. Filing everything from the day into the right places. When your brain is more organised, you are better equipped to solve problems and be creative. A rested and organised brain is also more able to think of new ideas
If you’re an athlete or keen on improving in your sport, there is one simple way to improve your performance and that's through sleep. A Stanford University study found that football players who tried to sleep at least 10 hours a night for seven to eight weeks improved their average sprint time and had less fatigue and increased stamina. Giving your body enough rest after hard physical activity, actually makes your ability to perform that much better.
According to a 2010 study in the journal Sleep, children ages 10 to 16 who snore, have sleep apnea, or any other type of interrupted breathing during sleep, are more likely to have problems with attention and learning. This could lead to “significant functional impairment at school,” the study authors wrote.
It would be worthwhile having it checked out if your child suffers from any of these. My 8-year-old snores, but not all the time. It seems to be related to illness. I do take note of his behaviour and attention ability the next day and can say he seems more sluggish and irritable than on the days he sleeps uninterrupted. I will definitely keep an eye on this as he grows up!
Ever noticed how children behave after a poor night? A lack of sleep can result in ADHD-like symptoms in kids. Children don’t seem to react the same way to a lack of sleep as adults do. Adults get sleepy, kids tend to get hyperactive.
A 2009 study in the journal Pediatrics found that children ages 7-8 who got less than eight hours of sleep a night were more likely to be hyperactive, inattentive, and impulsive. Sleeping helps you pay attention, concentrate, and stay focussed! This is particularly important for school-going age children. Tiredness can seriously affect their school day.
Dieters feel more hungry when they get less sleep. I know I have had this problem. It's then that I reach for the sugar-laden foods to give myself a quick energy boost. Of course, this boost does not last long and I'm left wanting more sugar to keep going … and we all know that sugar is not a healthy thing to eat for a healthy body.
Sleep and metabolism are controlled by the same sectors of the brain, Dr. Rapoport says. When you are sleepy, certain hormones go up in your blood, and those same hormones drive appetite.
So if you are looking to maintain a healthy weight or to lose some weight, get a good night's sleep.
Sleep can definitely reduce levels of stress. Stress isn't good for anyone. It raises your blood pressure and increases the risk of heart disease. Sleep helps to reduce stress by allowing us time to switch off and recharge. Sleep gives our bodies and minds a chance to repair and to disconnect from the stresses of the day. Make a point of keeping a regular bedtime and give yourself time to unwind and prepare for bed. I try to go to bed at the same time each night and my body is so in tune with my bedtime now, that I feel myself falling asleep and I know the time without checking my clock. This can be very annoying..uh..embarrassing when I head out for the rare night out. Yawning at 10:30 is not a good look!
Ever noticed how everyone irritates you or your tolerance levels diminish when you have not had a good night? A good night’s sleep can really help a moody person decrease their anxiety. You get more emotional stability with good sleep. It helps you maintain a good mood. So it stands to reason that getting good sleep will help you get along with friends, family, and colleagues.
If those are not enough superb reasons to hit the sack, then I don't know what are! I recommend snuggling down in your carefully lit/darkened room, on your perfectly chosen mattress and pillow, in the exact right temperature, far from electronics, at a time that offers you the best chance for a full 7 hours sleep. Perform the rituals that help you relax, prepare, and head to the land of nod in the best frame of mind.
If you manage all these…well done you! I'm still working on them myself.
Good luck and let me know if your children have some fantastic reasons for not going to bed. I'd love to hear about them and how you deal with them.
I am a preschool and primary school teacher and mum to 3 children. I have been involved in education since 1997 and have trained in a variety of educational specialist areas. It is with this expertise that I write articles to help parents and educators provide quality learning experiences for the children in their care.