At one time or another, most parents experience difficulty getting their children to sleep. Children often resist sleep for a variety of reasons, such as fear, stress, curiosity, and separation anxiety. However, when they don’t get a full night’s sleep, it can cause behavioural issues, such as emotional outbursts, irritability, and trouble paying attention. The good news is that there are several things you can do to make sure your child gets the sleep they require. The tips below can help make bedtime a less stressful process for the whole family.
1. Know how much sleep your child needs
At different points in their development, children will require a certain number of hours of sleep per day. This number will include their night sleeping, as well as naps. Understanding how sleep needs change with age will help you set appropriate nap times, bedtimes, and wake-up times. Our list below will help you determine your child’s requirements based on their age.
- Newborns (0-3 months): 14-17 hours
- Infants (4-11 months): 12-15 hours
- Toddlers (1-2 years): 11-14 hours
- Pre-schoolers (3-5 years): 10-13 hours
- School age children (6-13): 9-11 hours
2. Create A Set Bedtime and Wake-Up Time
Once you know how much sleep your child requires each night, you can set bedtimes and wake-up times suited to their needs. Sticking to a consistent sleep schedule reinforces your body’s natural circadian rhythm and “trains” you to feel drowsy and wake up around the same time each day. Before you know it, your child will be heading to bed without any trouble.
3. Make Bedtime a Family Event
Children often resist bedtime because they fear they are missing out on time with their families. If parents or siblings are up watching television, the children preparing for bed may feel as if they are missing out on valuable family time. However, if the whole family prepares for bed at the same time, children will feel included and become less anxious.
4. Create A Bedtime Routine
Having an established bedtime routine can help your child mentally and physically prepare for sleep. Before long, the routine will automatically signal your child to relax, making them more open to sleep. Children also tend to feel more safe and secure when they know what to expect night after night. You will want to work with your child to create the perfect bedtime routine for them, however, our list below can help give you some ideas on what to include.
● Brushing their teeth
● Taking a relaxing bath
● Putting on comfy pyjamas
● Read them a book
● Tucking them in
● Talking about their day
5. Create A Soothing Sleep Environment
Making your child’s sleep environment more relaxing can also help facilitate sleep. Keep their room cool, quiet, free of clutter, and with as little light as possible. A small nightlight is fine, but be sure to remove any electronic light from their sleep space. Choose the best mattress and the right soft sheets, blankets, and pillows that can help kids fall asleep faster.
6. Reduce Stress Before Bedtime
High levels of stress can create an overproduction of cortisol in your child’s body. Too much cortisol in their system can keep them awake longer and delay sleep. You can help to keep your child’s bedtime activities stress-free by reducing noise, dimming lights, talking softly, remaining calm, and keeping discussion topics light and positive.
7. Reduce Focus on Sleep
Insisting it is time for your child to fall asleep can often create more stress and anxiety when they are unable to fall asleep quickly. However, keeping the focus on relaxing the body and calming the mind can help your child naturally fall into a peaceful sleep.
8. Reduce Screen Time
Too much light from electronic screens, such as phones, television, computers, and video games, can interfere with the natural production of melatonin in your child’s body. Melatonin is your body’s key to feeling sleepy and ready for bed. Research shows that even a half-hour of television in the 2 hours before bed can disrupt this production. Consider reducing your child’s screen time at least 2 hours before bed as to not hinder melatonin production.
9. Avoid Big Meals Before Bed
Eating a big meal causes your child’s body to work hard at digestion. If their body is working to digest food, it cannot slow down and prepare for sleep. To help your child completely relax before bed, make sure their last big meal is at least 3 hours before bed and avoid sugary snacks.
10. Be Sure They Get Regular Exercise
Getting regular physical exercise helps your child to feel sleepy and ready for bed quicker. It’s important for your child to be active during the day so they don’t have a lot of energy when it’s time to go to bed. However, be sure to have some calm time to avoid overstimulation.
11. Create Protection Against Their Fears
Children often have irrational fears associated with bedtime. Disregarding these fears can often make matters worse. It is best to address the fear head-on. Consider working with your child to create a system of securing their sleep space against these fears.
12. Comfortable Objects
Many children develop attachments to comfort objects, such as blankets and teddy bears. These objects are often soothing and can help children fall asleep faster. If your child does not already have a comfort object, consider using a special blanket, pillow, or stuffed animal to help signal bedtime.
Bedtime can often be a stressful time, but using these tips can help the whole family find a more peaceful night’s sleep. If your child continues to struggle with sleep, you may want to consider discussing possible sleep disorders with your child’s paediatrician.