Sleep is as essential as nutrition and for keeping children healthy. But getting a child into bed and sleeping at a sensible time every evening can be a real challenge, especially when they have itchy eczema. You can help your eczema child get the sleep they need by building a fun bedtime routine.
Why is sleep so important?
Sleep is our body’s natural way of recharging the batteries. It boosts the immune system, aid healing, improves dexterity, increases concentration, spurs creativity and increases metal capacity. And for eczema children it can be even more important as a well rested child is usually better able to ignore the eczema itch and get on with life. Everyone is different but as rule of thumb, babies need an average of 14-15 hours per night, whereas toddlers need about 10-11 hours of sleep.
Build a fun routine
Bedtime is so much easier if it’s fun. And if you have an eczema child, avoiding getting them hot and flustered with tears and temper tantrums a bedtime will minimise the eczema itch and make it easier to for them sleep.
Start with setting the tone by playing a favourite (non-energetic) game before bedtime, perhaps watch a bit of TV with them or sing a ‘going-to-bed’ song. If you’re feeling inspired, making up your own stories or songs is always popular in our house – the kids get swept up by the novelty and next thing they know is that they are in the bath! And they both know that ‘Little Blue Tiger’ stories only get told when they are actually in bed. We find that it’s best to avoid saying “It’s time for bed!” as like most kids, this strikes fear into the hearts of our children.
Consistency is key: it gives children the security of knowing what is coming next and (hopefully) encourages them work with you. It also means that you don’t have to think too hard and end up forgetting something. Some families find that sticking to the same times every night works for them. Other families, like us, have more flexible timings but always do the same things in the same order. Our routine is: talk to whichever parent isn’t home on the phone (or iPad); TV and cuddles while the bath is running; bath-time itself; teeth cleaning while they ‘air-dry’ and we check their skin; apply their creams and put on PJs; then story and snuggle up in bed.
Bath time games
Just because bubbles aren’t an option doesn’t mean bath-time has to be boring. It’s a great opportunity to play and some toys, like , are so much more fun when played with in real water (some of the sea creatures change colour in warm water and other ones are squirty). Balloons and beach-balls are really good fun too, especially when you let them spin under a running tap. Our kids also love having their swimming goggles in the bath so they can see under the water – which also makes for easy hair-washing!
Teeth cleaning, creams and cuddles
Towel drying can really irritate eczema-prone skin. Our solution is to wrap the kids up in a big warm towel when they get out of the bath and give them a big cuddle. The towel soaks up most of the dampness. Then we pat dry any obviously wet bits before setting them free to ‘air-dry’ while they clean their teeth. While they are busy with their teeth we can get a good look at their skin so we know where to target their eczema creams. Even putting on cream can be fun – the kids love drawing pictures, stripes and moustaches on themselves with the cream before we smear it on properly.
Story time and (more) cuddles
We all know that kids love cuddles, especially at bedtime. But cuddles are lovely and warm and the extra body heat can make eczema itch more. The challenge for the parents of eczema children is keep the cuddles as cool as possible without reducing the affection. When our kids were small we used massage to keep the connection while keeping our distance, and they often still ask us for a tummy rub at bedtime (although I’m starting to suspect some procrastination here!). We also read their stories cuddled up on the sofa rather than in bed. This means that not only do the kids stay a bit cooler but we when we finally tuck them up in bed, their sheets feel wonderfully cool and soothing. If you do read stores to your child when they are in bed, do try to sit to the side rather than joining them in the bed. Finally, to take his mind off any itching, our itchy little boy listens to audio-books as he goes to sleep.
And if they don’t want to join in the fun?
Introducing a is a fun way to encourage reluctant children to join in the bedtime fun. For every day they go to bed with good grace they get a sticker. After a certain number of days of good bedtime behaviour they get a small, bedtime related prize. Children are unbelievably receptive to rewards and later on you can wean them off the chart and they will start naturally behaving well at bedtime.
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