Guidelines for Your Child's Bedtime
How to Make It Easier for Your Child (and You!) to Get Sound Sleep
8. Transitional object. Bedtime means separation, and that can be made easier with a transitional object, like a doll, teddy bear, blanket, or the like. This kind of object can provide a sense of security and control that comforts and reassures your child.
9. Room and bed sharing. Some parents may feel sharing their bedroom and/or bed with their child is more natural than having separate rooms, that it is important for emotional development. There may be cultural preferences as well.
From the point of view of obtaining uninterrupted sleep and considering various social and psychological issues, it is generally not a good idea. First, everyone sleeps better alone -- that is, we have fewer sleep disturbances and awakenings. Children in the same bed and/or bedroom also may not learn how to fall asleep themselves and tend to have sleep problems. Smothering is also a concern.
Having a child in the bed with you may also have serious effects on your intimacy and sex life. Leaving your child with a sitter may become an issue as well. The longer the child sleeps in your bed, the more difficult it becomes to decide exactly when he or she should stop and eventually move into his own room. Sleeping separately is also important to help a child learn to separate without anxiety and form his or her own identity.
10. One last thing. Kids will always have that one last thing -- kisses, hugs, a drink of water, using the bathroom. They can be quite inventive. Do your best to anticipate all this and get it done before getting in bed. And let your child know that once they are in bed, they have to stay in bed.
The National Sleep Foundation has produced a comic-book style activity booklet for children ages 7-10 to explore the benefits of sleep and its relation to health, safety, learning, and productivity. The NSF also has a sleep diary for school-aged children, who may enjoy recording the caffeinated beverages they drink, their bedtime routine, hours of sleep, and amount of energy they have for seven days and nights. The diary also contains a full page of tips and facts to help children establish lifelong positive sleep habits. See www.sleepforkids.org to learn more.