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Erratic bedtimes linked to child behavioral problems

Children who go to to bed at irregular hours are more likely to have behavioral problems, according to a recent study.

The research, which appeared in the U.S. journal Pediatrics, found that lifelong problems could result from erratic childhood bedtimes, but that the effects could be reversed with implementation of a schedule.

“Not having fixed bedtimes, accompanied by a constant sense of flux, induces a state of body and mind akin to jet lag,” said Yvonne Kelly of the University College London.

Inconsistent bedtimes can disrupt natural body rhythms and cause sleep deprivation, impairing brain development and the ability to regulate some behaviors, the research showed.

How can I get my kids to bed (and stay there?)

Dear Mama Drama:

I can’t get my kids to bed at night. They don’t listen when I tell them to stop watching TV or playing and get ready for bed, they fuss about washing their faces and brushing their teeth, and they always have a million reasons why they need to get out of bed. Every night seems to end in yelling and tears. My husband and I are exhausted and the kids are cranky because they don’t get enough sleep.

~ Tired and Cranky Mama

(photo credit)

Dear Tired and Cranky:

Bedtime fun

You’re done with the bath, jammies, brushing teeth and bedtime stories. Now what?

Tell a silly story.

Play quiet games.

Read in bed. (I like to pretend I’m being REALLY nice, “I gueeesss you can read.” . . when of course, I’m thinking yippee!)  The best way to see in the dark room, especially if your little sister is asleep is a headlamp. My husband even reads with a headlamp– I think it was his favorite birthday present to date – which possibly shows how lame my other gifts have been.

Glow in the dark decals make bedtime double the fun! Let your kids arrange glow in the dark stars, sheep or fireflies. I found some cute deals with Design with a Z and the coolest glow in the dark paint from Risk Reactor.

Finally, talk about the day.  Sometimes sleeping procrastination encourages revelations – at least it does for my second grader.


Mama Drama: Bedtime Woes & Sibling Fights

Dear Mama Drama: My 13-month-old daughter used to go to bed easily. Now she stands in her crib and screams. We have a consistent, calming bedtime routine, but it doesn’t seem to be working right now.

Dear Exasperated:
Your daughter may be telling you it’s to change her sleep schedule. She may not be as tired at her current bedtime as she used to be. Toddlers often shift their sleeping patterns as their activity and developmental needs change. They still need 10-13 hours of sleep on average, but may take fewer naps, need a different bed time, or need to be awakened earlier.

It may also be helpful to take a look at her schedule throughout the day. Make sure she is getting enough physical activity and that she is not over-stimulated in the hours just before bed. Warm baths, massages, wrapping up in a blanket to provide deep pressure, and quiet stories are all great additions to your nightly routine that will help her relax and be ready for sleep.

Dear Mama Drama: My seven year old twin boys were teasing each other last night when it escalated to one hitting the other multiple times in the back and the other one stabbing his brother in the head with the point of a pencil several times before I could intervene. I got them calmed down and put to bed, trying to stay calm myself. This is the first time this has happened and I am trying to figure out if this is normal or if I should be worried?

Dear Reeling:
Sounds like you did well to stay calm and get them calm. I suggest spending some time talking with them separately about what happened, focusing on how they were feeling at the time and helping them take responsibility for their part in the problem. Then have a conversation together where you problem solve and make a plan for future situations when they feel so upset.

While seven year olds generally have adequate vocabulary, they often don’t know how to express themselves effectively. Teaching and practicing problem solving language gives them the tools they need to successfully navigate social situations. With siblings, and particularly twins, emotions can be especially intense. Creating a peaceful problem solving structure provides a great framework for the family and is a skill they will use throughout their lives.

As a one-time incident I wouldn’t be over-the-top worried. Definitely let them know this behavior is not acceptable in any way and keep your radar up for escalating situations. Sometimes things happen too quickly to stop them, but other times we can step in to support them when the tension begins to rise and help them start communicating before the problems get bigger.

Motherhood is an amazing journey that can have its share of Mama Drama. The Mama Drama column will be running on Fridays with everyday mothering questions from readers and answers providing strategies to tackle these daily challenges. Send your questions to [email protected], and your Mama Drama might be in next week’s column.