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Why is bedtime… battle time? 

For three-year old Esha, and her exasperated mother, bedtime is battle time.  Despite various efforts  of her  mother, Esha just refuses to go to bed in time. The daily battle ends  when  Esha's tired parents fall asleep, and the child still remains awake.  This scenario is common in many households.  Parents end up getting late in the morning schedule due to their late nights.  The late nights become even more disturbing  when  the child outgrows the pre-school age. The household has to try very hard to change the child's  schedule after the morning school starts.  Therefore it is very important to inculcate the habit of  sleeping in time  at a very young age. Experts feel that the key to put an end to bedtime battles lies in understanding why your child resists sleep.

There could be many reasons :
  • Separation Fear: Many children sleep away from their parents, either in different rooms or on a separate bed. So they may treat sleeping as separation from their parents, and hence try to postpone the sleeping time as much as possible.
  • Entertainment Activity: They might be longing for some other source of fun like a favourite television programme.. 
  • Bonding: Specially for children of working mothers,  night time is the only relaxed time with the mom. As  a result, the child postpones sleep in order to share  time with her. 
  • Afternoon Nap: Some children, especially pre-schoolers tend to sleep in the afternoon. So they do not feel tired in the night and are too fresh for another nap.

To get to the root of your child's sleep resistance, and to make bedtime less combative, you need to consider lot of factors.

  • Establish Routines: Fix up a pre-bedtime routine and adhere to it. Taking a bath, brushing teeth, reading bedtime stories are normal comfortable routines. It makes your child psychologically prepared for sleep.  Once your child's mind gets accustomed to a particular schedule, he/she will automatically feel sleepy at that time everyday. Children of all ages function best when they follow consistent bedtime routine.
  • No Stimulation: Avoid any physical play during an hour before bedtime. Any such activity increases child's mental  and physical alertness
  • Limit Television:  Shut down television, music systems half an hour before sleep. If any person is watching TV or listening to music even in the other room, the child may not want to go to bed.  Strict instructions should be given to elder siblings for following these rules. 
  • Avoid Caffine-based Food: Avoid giving any chocolates, colas from dinner time onwards as it has got stimulating effect on the body and keeps the child away from sleep.
  • Offer Rewards: You can tell your child that if he/she is ready for bed before time, there will be time for an additional story. If the child adheres to the routine, reward him with either a toy or a movie of his/her choice . These incentives encourage them  to follow the sleeping routine diligently.
  • Remove The Fear: Many children have fear of darkness. They do not like the idea of putting off the lights. Help them to clear the fear associated with darkness.  Ghost stories, mysteries should not be told to the children at all as it may add to their fears. Have a light chat with your child at night. 
  • Avoid Making Them Sleep Separately From Very Young Age: The child feels secure in the company of  parents at night. Until the child attains optimum level of understanding and confidence about sleeping separately, do not force him into it. Create a confidence in him first and then let him sleep independently. Forcing him can create hatred and unhappiness in his mind. 
  • Encourage Physical Activity During The Day: There should be at least some form of physical exercise for your child during the day. It promotes good appetite and health. Through  such activity the child gets tired and feels sleepy at night. 
  • Keep Him Away From Afternoon Nap: The child should be kept away from afternoon nap by keeping him engaged in some favourite activity. There will be resistance from him for few days. But once he is accustomed to not sleeping during the day, his body will get tuned to the changed cycle. 

All these solutions are not exhaustive. You must come up with your own original ideas.

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