4 Ground Rules for A Good Night's Sleep

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April 27, 2010

Experts agree: no matter what is keeping your child awake or rousing her from slumberland, there are a few things every parent should do to ensure healthy sleep habits.

1. ALWAYS PUT HER DOWN AWAKE.
New research shows that children who fall asleep independently-no rocking, no cuddling until they drift off-fall asleep faster, sleep an hour more a night, and wake dramatically less. "All kids wake up about three to six times during the night," says sleep expert Jodi Mindell, PhD. "But if they learn how to fall back asleep without without your help, they'll do so without disruption."

2. FOLLOW A SET ROUTINE. "Children don't have an internal structure. Having a consistent environment will help them develop that ability to settle down to sleep," says Erica Komisar, a psychotherapist in New York City. A ritual that comprises the classic B's (bath, book, bed, and in the case of a baby, a bottle) will help your child shift smoothly from day to night.

3. MAKE SURE SHE'S GETTING ENOUGH SHUT-EYE.
"Children who are not getting enough sleep will be thrown way off schedule by even the most minor of disruptions," says Marc Weissbluth, MD, a pediatric sleep expert in Chicago and the author of several books on sleep.

4.WATCH FOR THE TELLTALE SIGNS OF SLEEPINESS.
"Just like adults, children have definite sleep cycles, and if you put them down too late, you'll miss that groggy window," notes Michael Breus, PhD, a clinical psychologist and sleep specialist in Atlanta. Anticipate your child's needs: if he's slowing down, rubbing his eyes, yawning, or sucking his thumb, consider it time to hit the hay.

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