Sleep Train Your Child Using Natural Remedies

Edited by Christine dela Cruz, Robbi, Lynn, Jonathan and 3 others

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Training a child is not a very easy task for parents. It involves a lot of conditioning and consistency in terms of discipline. It sometimes seems that more often than not, parents lose patience before children learn, and this automatically leads to the formation of habits that are not good. One of the most common problem areas is training a child to sleep at regular hours. Fortunately, there are several natural ways to achieve this.

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Definition of sleep

People, on the average, spend about a third of their life sleeping. Ideally, it is eight hours out of 24 hours in a day. Sleep is an essential part in the life of higher level vertebrates such as humans and animals.

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Sleep is a natural state that the body goes into on a repetitive basis. This state is characterized by a complete lack of or reduction of normal consciousness. Activities of the senses usually stop and almost all voluntary muscles become inactive. Also, what distinguishes clearly a sleeping person from a person who's awake is a decrease in his ability to respond to stimuli around him. However, as compared to a person in a coma, this kind of state can easily revert back to normal as soon as the body had undergone enough sleep.

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Sleep is said to be at a higher level of anabolic state, which causes development, growth, and rejuvenation of various systems of the body, such as skeletal, muscular, immune, and nervous systems. Some studies also say that sleep helps in preserving energy, although this may be more on the fact that metabolism is reduced by about 5-10 percent during sleep.

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It is indeed a very important process, that the body must undergo sleep in the proper way. Suppressing sleep for a good amount of time impacts significantly a person's or animal's physiological equilibrium.

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Stages of sleep

  1. 1
    Stage 1.
    This is the start of the sleep cycle and is overall very light compared to the following stages. In fact, this stage is more like a transition only from being awake to falling asleep. At this stage, the brain creates theta waves which are the slower brain waves compared to the three others. This does not last for a long time, in fact, only 5-10 minutes. If a person is awakened from this stage, he or she might even say that he was not really sleeping because it feels that way.
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  2. 2
    Stage 2.
    This takes about 20 minutes to occur. This is when brain activity begins to become more rhythmic and rapid and it is generally referred to as sleep spindles. Also, it may be noticed that body temperatures becomes lower at this stage, as well as the heart rate.
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  3. 3
    Stage 3.
    This is when slow but deep brain waves begin to occur. These brain waves are referred to as delta waves. This stage is considered the transition from light sleep to very deep sleep.
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  4. 4
    Stage 4.
    The slow delta waves that begin to occur from stage 3 continue until stage 4. This is also the reason why this stage is sometimes called delta sleep Sleep remains to be very deep at this point and lasts for about 30 minutes. Because of this, sleep phenomena such as sleepwalking or bed wetting may occur toward the end of this stage.
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  5. 5
    Stage 5.
    Dreams occur during this stage of sleep. This is accompanied by what is called rapid eye movement (REM), a higher respiration rate, and an increase in brain activity. Ironically, however, although there are various activities going on at the same time, the muscles of the body become much more relaxed. This is the reason why this stage, aside from being called REM sleep, is also at times called paradoxical sleep. Dreams are a byproduct of the increase in brain activity.
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Typical sequence of stages during sleep

Although the stages are numbered, in reality, they do not occur in this exact sequence. Sleep would typically progress this way:

  1. 1
    Stage 1
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  2. 2
    Stage 2
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  3. 3
    Stage 3
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  4. 4
    Stage 4
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  5. 5
    Stage 3
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  6. 6
    Stage 2
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  7. 7
    Stage 5
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  8. 8
    Stage 2
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This sequence will normally repeat through the night about four or five times.

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Benefits of sleep to the body

  • Improvement in memory. As seen in the stages of sleep, brain activity becomes really intense during sleep. Because of this, memory is strengthened and you are somehow training your brain to practice certain skills learned during wakefulness. This process is referred to as consolidation.
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  • Longevity of life. Several studies somehow link lifespan to whether or not a person had been deprived of sleep. Some studies see the trend when people lose sleep on a continuous basis over a period of time, and lifespan is relatively shorter compared to those who have maintained good sleep patterns.
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  • Prevention or relief of inflammation. Inflammations are usually connected to diseases of the heart, diabetes, arthritis, and even premature aging. People who sleep fewer hours than the ideal amount normally have higher levels of inflammatory proteins in their blood than those who meet the ideal amount of sleep.
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  • Increase level of creativity. Not only does the brain reconcile learned things during sleep, but it also reorganizes them and puts them into a structure. This then leads to better creativity.
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  • Better attention and learning. People who are able to sleep well are normally more capable of focusing on what they do and learn quickly.
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  • Increased stamina. It's true that sleep is a form of recharge for the body. It allows the body to recuperate from day-to-day stress. Therefore, the body ends up being more energetic the following day.
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Sleep patterns for children

The wakefulness and sleep cycle is called circadian rhythms. This is typically influenced by environmental factors such as light and darkness. Light normally indicates that it is time to wake up, and darkness gives the signal to the body that it's time to rest.

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These circadian rhythms take some time to get developed. That's why it has been noticed that newborns normally have very irregular sleep patterns. Parents go crazy over this, but it's mainly because the circadian rhythms at that age are yet to develop. Only from the sixth week onward do these patterns begin to show.

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Until the age of two, children would normally spend most of their time sleeping. This is good though because sleep directly influences physical and mental progress.

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Sleep patterns and age

  1. 1
    Newborn (1 - 2 months).
    At this age, newborns would normally spend more time asleep. They only wake up based on the need to get fed, cuddled, and changed. Overall, newborns may sleep from 10-18 hours in a single day. These hours are very irregular and not on a continuous basis. On the average, however, newborns would be awake from one to three hours straight, then sleep for another few hours, then wake up for a while again. It is also noticeable that newborns are very active during sleep, with a lot of twitching, smiling, and restlessness.
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  2. 2
    Infant (3 - 11 months).
    At this age, feeding time has become more regular and it is not required anymore in the middle of the night. Therefore, this is a good chance to really practice babies to sleep through the night without any distractions. Babies would normally sleep from nine to 12 hours, and there will be short naps through the day.
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  3. 3
    Toddler (1 - 3 years).
    As toddlers are normally very active, 12-14 hours of sleep in a day are reasonable. Sleep time is usually split into two, one in the afternoon and then one at night. Once they reach their second year, sleep becomes once a day only.
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  4. 4
    Preschooler (3 - 5 years).
    Preschoolers tend to spend about 11-13 hours of their day sleeping, with some naps in between. However, the problem with this age is that preschoolers normally experience disturbed sleep at night because of nightmares and fears. Also, sleepwalking and sleeptalking are at a peak at this age.
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  5. 5
    School-aged Child (5 - 12 years).
    Children at this age usually have less sleep because of demands in school and other social activities. Media has also affected sleep patterns a lot, especially with internet and computer games around. It is very important that discipline is really implemented at this age, otherwise, children may be prone to sleep disorders that may overall affect their health.
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How sleep benefits young children

  • Improvement in grades. This is mainly because children, especially those at the peak of learning complex things (age 10-16), require sleep in order to be able to focus better and retain and understand more effectively what they learned during wakefulness. The brain processes all information absorbed while awake and organizes this information in a way that it can easily be remembered later on.
  • More energy. Children with enough sleep are proven to be more energetic. Therefore, they are able to enjoy different activities on a day-to-day basis.
  • Overall well being. As sleep is one way of the body to recuperate from stress, children who have enough sleep are more likely not to get sick as much as the others.
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How to sleep train your child based on age

  1. 1
    Newborn (1 - 2 months)
     
    1. Lay your baby on the bed as a preparation to sleep, not when he is already sleeping, but when he is just feeling sleepy. Sleepiness in newborns is normally indicated by crying, rubbing of eyes, and overall fussing over any matter. Once you see that, start to put him on the bed.
    2. Put your baby on his back when he sleeps. Ensure that blankets or pillows are out of his way.
    3. There is nothing much to do after but to let your baby sleep on his own. This is one way of conditioning him to sleep, especially during night time.
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  2. 2
    Infant (3 - 11 months)
     
    1. Develop good sleep patterns by scheduling feeding time properly. Schedule it in a way that your baby doesn't have to wake up in the middle of the night because of hunger.
    2. Develop a routine at night that is perceived as enjoyable by your baby and conducive to sleep.
    3. Allow your baby to be able to sleep on his own. Babies usually have the capacity to self-soothe themselves by rubbing soft pillows or sucking their thumb.
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  3. 3
    Toddler (1 - 3 years)
     
    1. Maintain a firm sleep schedule.
    2. Develop a good bedtime routine, including brushing teeth, cleaning up, combing hair, etc.
    3. Allow the use of security blankets such as stuffed toys, pillows, etc. This makes sleeping enjoyable for toddlers.
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  4. 4
    Preschooler (3 - 5 years)
     
    1. Be firm with sleep schedules. This is very crucial at this age because preschoolers are at the age now that they like reasoning out.
    2. Develop a bedtime routine that encourages your preschooler to be at his sleeping room at a certain time. This automatically leads him to associate that he should be sleeping at that time.
    3. Ensure that your preschooler sleep in the same room every night. This allows for consistency in discipline.
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  5. 5
    School-aged Child (5 - 12 years)
     
    1. Educate your child about the benefits of good sleep habits.
    2. Keep on emphasizing to him that there is a need for consistency in bedtime routine.
    3. Decorate your child's room in a way that it is ideal for sleep. Normally, it should be dark, quiet, and overall cool.
      Christinedelacruz Children's Room 93.jpg
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How to sleep train your child using natural remedies

  1. 1
    Educate your child on the benefits of sleep.
    Get a personal buy-in as to why sleep is important, instead of just appearing like you are simply imposing a rule.
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  2. 2
    Communicate clearly your expectations in terms of timing of sleep and explain why.
    Children are very exploratory and unless they understand why something has to be done, they usually won't stick with it and explore something else.
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  3. 3
    Provide an environment that is conducive to sleep.
    Decorate their sleeping area so that they feel motivated to go there. Play music that they enjoy. Surround them with books that they can read until they feel sleepy.
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  4. 4
    Supply them with food that helps in making them fall asleep.
    Milk is the easiest option. A glass of warm milk will immediately soothe your child's senses and make them feel sleepy.
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  5. 5
    Avoid imposing a punishment in case your child misses the schedule.
    The feeling of fear alone will immediately affect a child's ability to sleep. Also, as this entire process involves a lot of conditioning, you don't want your child, in any way, to be associating sleep to punishment, whether directly or indirectly.
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  6. 6
    Establish a sleep pattern for your child.
    For example, make sure that dinner every night should be exactly scheduled 6 pm. Then, after the meal, around 6:30 to 6:45 pm, make the child have his wash up or quick shower; slip him into his pajamas or any other comfortable sleepwear, then set him up on the bed for his bedtime story, and his prayers. Then, exactly 8 pm, lights off (except maybe dim light from a lamp, depending on the character of the child about darkness), kiss him good night, and tuck him in. In this way, 8 pm would be an ideal sleep time for your child when he gets used to it up to adulthood.
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  7. 7
    Some children have fetishes, like an old smelly pillow cover which can put him to sleep.
    Some kids have their old dolls with them when they sleep, usually unwashed for months, but the old familiar smell lulls them to sleep. Do not discourage them from doing this, but at the same time, do not encourage it. If the item being fetish on is dirty, it could be a breeding ground for germs. Just have a nice, pleasant conversation with your child encouraging him to have his blanket or doll washed regularly, and assure him that you will promptly return the beloved item to him promptly after the washing.
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Categories : Parenting

Recent edits by: Rebecca M., Anonymous, Jonathan

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