At our house, we have a bedtime routine (bath, brush teeth, reading and storytime, and prayers).
After all that is done, we also have a “transition time.” Transition Time began a few years ago after we discovered how long it took for Elizabeth to fall asleep once we finished this nighttime routine. She couldn’t fall asleep. Nothing we told her to try worked. Counting sheep. Saying a prayer. Shutting her eyes. Thinking about something. No matter what we tried, she couldn’t fall asleep.
And it was a lot of work for her parents!
So, we instituted Transition Time, a 30-minute period in which she was allowed to play in her room before we turned the lights out. We hoped this time would allow her to unwind before lights out. This transition period has helped her fall asleep faster and sleep better (she used to wake up in the middle of the night, too) than she used to when we did not do such a thing. She is happy; we are happy.
Last year, we decided to institute a similar transition period for Peyton. His bedtime is 30 minutes earlier than Elizabeth’s (he just turned four; she’s almost seven) and he is required to stay in bed, but otherwise it’s the same as his sister’s. Peyton typically reads, stands on his bed, makes faces at himself in the mirror, rolls around, talks to himself (he is ALWAYS talking), plays with his cars, or destroys things.
A few nights ago, Peyton asked me if he could play his Leapster (a gaming system) in bed. I said yes. He played it for 30 minutes until I went and turned off his light.
It took him two hours to go to sleep that night.
He rolled around the bed, whined that he couldn’t go to sleep, got in and out of bed, went to the bathroom, played in the sink, played with his toys, looked out the window, talked to us, asked for more hugs and kisses, went to the bathroom (again), and did just about anything else available at the time in the dark.
After what seemed like forever (!), he finally fell asleep. My husband and I breathed a sigh of relief that we could now spend some time together (and then Levi woke up. Ha!).
The next night, Peyton wanted to play the Leapster again, and I said he could. The same thing happened. The same little blond-headed boy couldn’t fall asleep.
(I still had not figured out what was going on.)
Several days later, I read an article discussing how screens (computer, TV, iPhone) should not be used right before bedtime. They stimulate you. Duh. That was the reason he wasn’t sleeping. He was too wired mentally. The technology had activated his mind. Instead, of providing the winding down for which this time is meant, Peyton was wired.
Now, no more screens during this transition time.No iPhones, Leapsters, LeapPads, computers, or TVs at bedtime. They provide too much stimulation. I don’t know how long we can keep this rule up (our children are young), but I do think our generation (as parents and children) has to consider this much more than previous ones. Yes, we’ve had TV and computers for years, but handheld devices such as mobile phones and gaming systems are much more vivid, bright, and colorful than the Gameboy of my generation.
Today, these devices provide even greater stimulation, over-stimulation to be exact, than previous devices did. It will be interesting to see what some of the effects will be–not just on sleep but on maturity, development, socialization, learning, education, emotions, and so many other areas as well.
What screen rules have you set? What advice do you have?