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  • Writer's pictureEleanor

Sleep – The More The More

Updated: Oct 11, 2020

There is no better time than now, in our Covid-19 stricken time to establish a good sleeping routine. Forget about the crowded happy-hour, work from home if you can, skip the rush-hour traffic, set an end-time for work and have early family dinner and early bedtime.

Malaysians are pretty laid-back. That is just how most countries on the equator are. Year-round good weather, abundant coconut and resources… there is never a need to preserve and harvest and shore up for the cold, bitter winter. Maybe that is the reason why our parenting style is pretty laid-back as well. I see children below 5 still out with parents at mamak and malls at 9pm, 10pm.

What one might not realize is that children’s sleep is of utmost importance to their brain development. Not just the total hours, the time that they go to bed makes a difference too. Below are some of the myths I would like to clear up so we can all have healthy children who are ready to be at their optimum level to absorb, observe and explore. Sleep is when data and memories gets arranged and stored away to become long-term memory. Sleep is when the body repairs itself.

Myth – Skip the Nap, Children Will Sleep Better At Night

For children who are still napping, naps are important. Naps are a power-up to keep their energy at optimum level. When children are tired, they get cranky. Same goes for adults.

When you drop the nap too early, you will find that the child seems to be even more energized by their usual bedtime. This is because the human body secrets cortisol, a hormone that spikes whenever we are stressed, when we stay awake past our usual bedtime or when we are lacking in sleep, or had poor quality of sleep. Hence, the more tired a child is, the more hyper he gets. Normally, cortisol level is highest in the morning and lowest over-night. With more cortisol in his body from lack of sleep, he is super energized, excited. Imagine you are running late. Do your actions get faster? Do you talk faster? Do you snap easier if something does not go the way you intended? Or in rushing, you become clumsier? If you see your child behaving that way when its near bedtime… bedtime has been set too late. Cortisol has strike. Skip a nap, it is even harder to put a child to bed.

You do not have to believe articles or me, I read and experimented. You can do it too. I had a sleep journal for my daughter started when she was 3 months old. Sleep was not her thing. Science said around 3 months old babies go through sleep regression when their sleep cycle goes from light sleep into deep sleep after 20 mins, listen to the change of longer and deeper breathing, then light sleep again where baby is more likely to wake up every 45 mins. I literally crawled back into her room, timer in hand, 10 minutes after I put her to bed, listened intently... and sure enough, 10 minutes later on my hands and knees, her breathing changed. Horribly true too, she stirred and woke up a little when 45 minutes were up.

Human body thrives on routine. Consistent bedtime everyday creates a body that by 8pm every night, feels sleepy. Wake up at 7am every day, even without an alarm clock, on a holiday, in a different time zone, you will wake up at 7am Malaysian time.

The more your child sleep, the better his sleep quality and the easier he will fall asleep. The secret to getting the optimal hours of sleep (every child is a little different) is once you have achieved a consistent bed-time for a month, he consistently wakes up at a certain time. THAT is the magic number to keep to until he grows older and needs less sleep. Do not worry about sleeping too much. Most children sleep too little.

When children are ready to drop the nap, unfortunately, there is no hard and fast rule nor is there a fixed age. Some can drop it cold turkey, some goes back and forth between needing a nap and the next day not… Some stop napping at 30 months, some 4 years old... I shall share with you how to go about adjusting your child’s bedtime step by step in the next article. Yes, it can be adjusted from a 11pm bedtime to 8pm. And YES! An optimal bedtime for children who are aged 3-5 yo is 8pm. Earlier if younger. “But how can I have dinner?” At 6pm. “But that is impossible!” If it is important, you will find a way. 😊

Recommended hours of sleep by Webmd.

Til next time. Remember, the more the more! Sleep well and stay safe!

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