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Are your kids waking up too early or late after time change? After a time change, it can be so hard to get our kids to get back to a nice sleeping schedule. When your kids are not getting enough sleep, or if they are waking up too early, it can make them tired, unfocused, unhealthy and grumpy.
The time change is always hard, especially when we know that kids who don’t have consistent bedtimes often have behavior and health issues. It makes sense that a new bedtime would impact our children.
How important is sleep to your child’s happiness?
As it turns out, sleep is the BIGGEST indicator of happiness.
The BTN Happiness Survey conducted by the University of Melbourne and Behind the News TV program involved 47,000 Australian children. The findings proved that sleep was the biggest indicator of happiness. The study found that kids felt twice as happy when they had slept well.
“Getting enough sleep made children twice as likely to report feeling happy lots of the time.”-BTN Happiness Survey
With millions of Americans already failing to get the recommended seven or more hours of sleep on a regular basis, it’s especially important for those who are sleep-deprived to prepare in advance for the fall and spring time change.
Early Bedtime = Lasting Benefits
When they were young, we put our children to bed at 7:00 and they slept until 7:00 am (after we worked on it, of course. There were times when our 2 year old was waking up a night and when our 3 year old was still waking at night, but we were able to help them learn to sleep all night long.)
Along with nutrition and exercise, sleep is one of the three pillars of a healthy lifestyle. We know that sleep is essential, so teaching kids great sleeping and waking habits & patterns will benefit them greatly throughout life.
- Enough sleep = Healthier child
- Enough Sleep = Happier Child
- Enough Sleep = More Focused Child
- Enough Sleep = Better Behavior
- The list goes on & on.
Kids Waking Up Too Early?
As I said, there was a time when our kids started waking up at night, or when they were waking too early. These are little hiccups that can become habits if we don’t help our kids get back on track.
At one point, our two older boys (around age 4 and 6 at the time) were waking at 5:00 am. While 5:00 may not be too early for some families, it was too early for our children, who were used to getting up at 7:00 am. Two fewer hours of sleep made a big difference.
It was still dark outside, they were waking their younger siblings (so everyone was getting less sleep), and they were grumpy from lack of sleep. I knew that we needed to change something, and I didn’t want to put them to bed at 5:00pm to help them get their full night’s sleep, so it meant teaching them to sleep in later.
How Much Sleep Do Kids Need?
Or you can look at this chart from Wilson Elementary School: How the chart works–>> If they wake up at a particular time, they need to go to bed at the time below that time, depending on their age. So a five-year-old would need to go to bed by 6:45 if they had to be up at 6:00).
I’d adjust it a bit, to fit your family’s schedule, but it does show that kids need a lot of sleep… and to that point, I agree.
TEACHING KIDS TO SLEEP IN LATER
Note: I didn’t start this until our kids were almost three years old and could understand it.
To help our kids learn good sleep habits, we came up with this idea, and I have shared it with friends and family, and they do it, too. It works! We finally figured out a way to keep our kids in bed longer (giving them the chance to get enough sleep for their bodies and minds)
This idea is to naturally set our children’s internal clocks to a time that is more suiting to their schedule (with preschool and grade school). It allows their bodies to sleep until it is time to wake up.
1). DETERMINE AN APPROPRIATE WAKE-UP TIME AND LEARN THAT NUMBER.
After you determine an appropriate wake-up time, you need to practice that number with your kids. If you want them to get up at 7:00, show them the number 7.
Write the number on a paper, write it on a white-board, find it in books, find it on a clock, have them write it.
2). COVER THE CLOCK:
What you will need:
- A digital clock (I find it’s best to choose a basic clock- similar to this one)
- A piece of paper (I use index cards. You can use anything!)
- Marker or crayon
3). WRITE JUST THE HOUR
Write just the number of the hour on the paper.
Ex: if you want them to wake at 7:00, write 7.
If you want them to wake up at 6:00, write 6.
This becomes your “allowed to get out of bed” time.
4). TAPE THAT NUMBER OVER THE MINUTES (hide the minutes)
Now tape that paper over the MINUTES on your digital clock so that all that you are left seeing is the hour and the paper.
Here is what it looks like (sorry that my time was 4:00 when I took it.)
5). SHOW YOUR KIDS
Show your kids when the number on the clock (the hour) matches the number on their paper, they can come out of bed.
Here is a close-up of our clock (show them every hour on the clock & let them tell you when it matches, for practice):
HOW TO TEACH THEM:
As with anything, you need to remember that you have to TEACH your kids this new rule. You can not expect them to sleep until 7:00 tomorrow, just because you started this today. Give it a week or two, and you will have them sleeping later.
When they come out of their room the first few days early (and they will), just take them back to bed and say “You can come out at 7:00, when the number of the clock matches. Are they the same now? Ok, sweetheart- go back to bed.” (put them back into bed).
Now what you will want to stay awake because it’s so important that when you are teaching them, you watch for the clock to turn to 7:00. When it turns to 7:00, you go into their rooms and say, “Ok! It’s time to come out now! It’s 7:00!! Great job!” Do this for over a week, until they get it.
(Don’t wake them if they are asleep, obviously, but if they are already awake, you want to be happy that they are in their beds until the allowed time.)
TIP: TAKE IT SLOWLY
If your child has been getting up at 5:00, don’t expect him/her to sleep until 7. You have to do this slowly. I would change the time on the clock for this situation. So, every night, I would adjust their clock time a little bit. If your goal is 7:00, but right now they are waking up at 5:00, adjust the clock by an hour & 30 minutes…. so when it is really 5:30 am, their clock will be 7:00.
A week later, adjust it again… change the hour so that when the actual time is 6:00, the clock shows 7:00.
Then a week later adjust it again (actual time is 6:30, but the clock shows 7:00).
A few days after that… You will be back to the at the actual time of 7:00 (or whatever your goal may be).
The point is that I would move it every few days, over a few weeks until they were waking up at 7:00. (Just my two cents)
It works so well that it becomes a habit… like an “internal alarm clock.” If I was awake at 6:00 and would check on them, they were always asleep, but come 7:00, they were all rushing into my room… “Good morning, Mom!”
(that’s another thing that we taught them when they were young- a nice way to wake someone up is by saying “good morning” instead of just saying their name. lol! We practiced it daily & over a decade later, they all still greet me this way in the mornings.)
Why Did We Do This? For Their Safety.
I did not let our kids get out of bed before 7:00, for safety reasons. I don’t want them in their rooms playing when I do not know about it. I want them in their beds.
I made this rule after I had read a heart-breaking story about a little girl who had died when her dresser fell on top of her. Her parents were asleep in their room and didn’t know that she was out of her bed. It was one of those VERY HEAVY dresser/changing tables that everyone has and it killed her. Her mom didn’t realize it until she (the mom) woke up for the day. Her story had opened my eyes to the fact that dangers lurk where you don’t expect them, even with furniture that you would NEVER expect to fall over… same with toys…. you just never know which ones have hidden dangers, even if you don’t expect it). For that reason, I don’t want our kids awake without me knowing, so they stay in bed until 7:00.
Consistency, Consistency, Consistency
I can’t stress this enough: consistency is your best friend during the time change. Stick to the new schedule as closely as possible, and keep your daily routines predictable. It helps children feel secure and adapt more easily.
Alternative Ideas to Teach Them To Stay in Bed:
2- USE A TIMER ON A SMALL LAMP
Another completely different idea that a friend shared with me is to have your lamp set to a timer (like the kind that you get when you are going on vacation) and have it turn on at a specific time (example: 7:00 am). When the light goes on, they can get out of bed.
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