“Listen to your child’s physiology,” she advised. Some steps that might help:
Research shows that in adults, too much light in the evening delays the melatonin surge and subsequent sleepiness. While there’s no data in young children yet, LeBourgeois says dimming the lights about an hour before bedtime makes sense.
Avoid electronics near bedtime, because they generate a specific type of light that triggers wakefulness. LeBourgeois was horrified to hear one parent offer a sleepless youngster an iPad to play with as long as the child stayed in the bedroom.
And make sure blackout shades aren’t keeping your children from getting enough morning sunlight, she said. Light in the morning also is key to keeping the biological sleep clock on schedule.
Stay tuned: With funding from the National Institute of Mental Health, LeBourgeois has begun a larger study that will track sleep patterns of 40 2-year-olds until they’re 5. She’ll also measure their light exposure and periodically record their brain waves during sleep, in a bid to better understand the influence of sleep patterns on children’s development.