| Dubai, United Arab Emirates

Topic of the week: Sleep tight

This week’s small talk about little people

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A leading child psychologist in the UK has blamed lack of sleep for children who exhibit unruly behavior, who don’t perform well at school and who crave unhealthy foods.

Tanya Byron, a government advisor, called the situation a ‘crisis’ and said that youngsters were simply not getting enough shut-eye, mostly because their parents were not enforcing strict routines at home. Too much TV, computer and time before bed, she added, was compounding the problem. Apparently, the bright lights radiating from such appliances prevent the brain from producing melatonin – an essential hormone that allows you to fall asleep.

Are you enforcing strict routines at home? What time do your kids go to bed? Let us know in the comments!

Time Out Dubai,

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I advise the parents I work with to enforce a clear bedroom routine and be strict on the time that the children go to bed with light off. You can't enforce the actual sleep but you can make sure they go to rooms on time etc. If they are not don't shout, simply time how long after the curfew they are messing about and make then start the routine that much time earlier as a natural consequence the next day. They will soon learn!

Adam Zargar
Empowerment Coach

Review by : Adam Zargar

I agree with at least part of what Ms Byron has said. I made the mistake early on with my first child of not putting her to bed until I went to bed - she'd sleep on the sofa beside me until I went up. While as a baby this worked very well; I didn't have to worry about her, had no need of a baby alarm because she was right there beside me (and slept with me too), it did mean that enforcing a bedtime when she was older was difficult and she resisted it.

Amazingly I carried on with this policy for each of the other four children, with the result that bedtime, even now, can be extremely fraught with argument and each child usually makes at least one appearance in the living room - for a drink, hug, whatever - before they settle down for the night. If I could go back in time, I'd enforce bedtime at an earlier stage - maybe not straight away as a newborn, but certainly by the time they're toddlers.

As for bad behaviour due to lack of sleep, I'm not sure. My children are pretty well behaved, although are difficult to rouse in the mornings due to all the night time carry on. But more importantly, I think a set routine for bedtime is essential for the parents well-being, so that they get some time alone before the day is finished. We all need a bit of child-free sanity at the end of the day!

That's my tuppence worth!

Review by : Claire Calvey

It's always reported as so easy isn't it? It's all very well to say children need more sleep - I don't think there are many parents who would disagree, it's common sense. But what if you can't get your child to sleep through the night?

My little boy is only eight months and I'd love a full night of unbroken sleep but it doesn't look like it's going to happen time soon. So what if it doesn't happen for a few years? What if he's still up at midnight and 4am when he starts going to school.

I'll agree with his teacher and any specialist out there, he should be getting more sleep. But aside from drugging him what will my options be? Add to all that a school teach mother who has seen reception children literally fall asleep at their desks by lunchtime. The idea terrifies me even now.

Here's hoping the immense list of theories my husband and I have already tried eventually pay off. Night time bingo (I usually win with a 4am prediction) is no fun...it'll be less fun when his teacher judges the bags under my eyes before anything else!

Review by : Kelly Marque

Hi there,

From as young as 4 months old, for us a sleep routine was essential for us and our baby girl (now almost 4 years old). We wanted to be able to have dinner together as a couple and it seemed that every time our cutlery clinked, she would wake up and one of us would be trying to settle her for hours.

We found it very tough at the time as we didn't like the concept of 'controlled crying' but we ready a Tizzie Hall book called 'Save Our Sleep', which worked to the letter for us as long as we followed it exactly as she said. From the age of 5 months, she has gone to bed at 7pm every night and she does like to early rise, but it has been a life-changer for us. The best sentence for me in the book was 'you are giving your child a gift in teaching them how to self-settle'. And our routine hasn't changed too much - dinner, bath every night with some play time in the bath, stories and cuddles and lights out.

Whenever our little one goes to bed later, she still wakes up at the same time and she is very cranky and easily irritable. We do let her watch TV on treat nights which is Thursday nights before bed, but otherwise, she tends to have bad dreams if she watches TV just before bed time. She also does now like to have some sort of nightlight (for us this has been the Cloudb Twilight Turtle but there are heaps of options on the market) as she is now more aware of the dark but we have predictability in our evenings and we also then know that if she isn't settling or wakes up, something isn't right (generally it means she's coming down with something).

I do genuinely believe that the greatest gift you can give your baby and child, is the gift of self-settling and letting them enjoy their sleep and the fresh feeling they wake up with.Their immune systems are also much stronger when they get sufficient sleep!

Great topic, thanks for raising it as I think it's a huge issue for many parents, especially with new babies! We wish we had started the routine a lot earlier than we did!


Review by : Miranda Hilton

My children always go to sleep around 7:30pm (5 month old and 3 year old). Children need a routine. My baby wakes between 6- 7am, and my toddler between 7-8am.

Review by : Corrine