Bedtime for Toddlers: Why your toddler might not be sleeping

December 18, 2013

Dec. 18, 2013                                   Monique LeBourgeois (lə-bür-zhwä)

According to a CU-Boulder study, choosing your toddler’s bedtime may be one of the most important decisions a parent will make. Lead researcher Monique LeBourgeois, an experimental psychologist with the Department of Integrative Physiology, says the bedtime for your toddler should be in sync with his or her internal biological clock or there is a potential of developing life-long sleep problems.

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Bedtime for Toddlers: Why your toddler might not be sleeping

Dec. 18, 2013                                   Monique LeBourgeois (lə-bür-zhwä)

According to a CU-Boulder study, choosing your toddler’s bedtime may be one of the most important decisions a parent will make. Lead researcher Monique LeBourgeois, an experimental psychologist with the Department of Integrative Physiology, says the bedtime for your toddler should be in sync with his or her internal biological clock or there is a potential of developing life-long sleep problems.

CUT 1 “We are actually suggesting that parents be aware that the internal biological clock plays an important role as to when kids are ready to fall asleep. Some kids are going to be later, some kids are going to be earlier. (:13) There are studies showing that early sleep problems – especially difficulties falling asleep or staying asleep early in childhood - track across a lifespan. “(:23)

The study of 14 toddlers pinpointed when the sleep hormone melatonin increased for each child in the evening, signaling the start of the biological sleep process. Usually sleep for toddlers follows about 30 minutes after its onset, says LeBourgeois, but adds that the onset varies so parents need to be aware of their child’s internal biological clock if they want their child to fall asleep quickly.

CUT 2 “In our study we had children whose rise in evening melatonin started at 6:30 in the evening but we also had kids who’s rise was not until 9 o’clock at night. (:13) The rise in melatonin says, ‘Be prepared to sleep.’ If your parents select a time that is earlier than your melatonin onset those kids were much more likely to take longer to fall asleep and to come out of the bedroom repeatedly and do these curtain calls than kids who had earlier melatonin onsets and were put to bed.” (:32)

LeBourgeois says she is not suggesting parents keep their toddler up late if they can’t sleep. She says what you can do to get them to sleep earlier is limit the amount of light they get in the evening.

CUT 3 “The strongest timekeeper of the internal biological clock is light. And in today’s world exposure to evening light, especially with electronic devices such as iPads and computers and TV, can actually promote a later clock time. (:17) One piece of advice is reduce the amount of evening light so that we promote an earlier clock.  Kids in our study, the ones who had an earlier internal biological time, a circadian time, took less time to fall asleep and they showed much less bedtime resistance.” (:33)

The importance of understanding a child’s internal biological clock and getting them to have positive sleep patterns is paramount to their development, says LeBourgeois.

CUT 4 “Early childhood is this window in which kids gain greater autonomy and they learn about sleep. They come to understand sleep association - bedtime routine, falling asleep at night, waking up in the middle of the night and how to get back to sleep. (:16) And, yes, if a child has difficulties falling asleep over the course of time that can lead to insomnia.” (:23)

 

--CU-

 

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