When does sleep become a problem? Well, usually when your child is not getting enough. How do you know when your child is sleep deprived? This is actually a much more common problem that most realize. Distractibility, moodiness, and difficulty with focus and concentration are common results of lack of adequate sleep in children. Sound familiar? As a mental health therapist, I saw many of these children coming in for ADHD evaluations. Sometimes when bedtimes were discussed I was shocked at the midnight bedtime and 6am wake time for a 6-year-old in Kindergarten. Keep in mind that sleep time will often increase during times of sudden growth. Sleep is when certain necessary brain activity occurs (for all ages) as well.
If your child falls below the number of required sleep hours and you notice tiredness, crankiness, and difficulty managing emotions throughout the day, it may be time to make a change in the bedtime routine. Earlier bedtime, adding a nap, or having a set “down time” during the day when possible. The time of day for naps and bedtime should reflect your family’s needs. This will likely change when your child begins school.
Children up to and including age 5 may still nap, even if not daily. This has changed somewhat over the last few decades; when I was in Kindergarten we still napped during the day. Now this is not part of a Kindergartener’s day. Some kids stop napping as early as 2 or 3, although at 2.5 or so it is common for a toddler to stop napping/refuse sleep for a period of months, then resume their usual nap period. Keep in mind that rather than simply assigning times based on reading an article or book, make sure to fit bedtime, in addition to other needs, to your child and family’s schedule. When naptimes don’t or can’t happen, we have read books, had quiet time, watched a movie, or found another way to allow for physical rest for an active preschooler. And keep in mind that your child is always changing, as are his needs! It can feel difficult to keep up at times, but adjusting expectations along the way and being flexible with changes can help reduce stress for both you and your child.