Bedtime can be a struggle, even in the most orderly household – after all, what kid wants to go to bed when everyone else gets to stay up? Surely they’ll be missing out on something great, and you’re not about to convince them otherwise. That’s why you need to create a sleep-friendly environment that will help kids sleep and a bedtime routine starting from an early age.
As your child grows, these four mom-tested strategies to help kids sleep will keep sleep struggles to a minimum and allow your children to develop a secure, comfortable relationship with bedtime. They won’t be begging to go to bed, but they should head off to sleep without a fight.
4 Steps To Help Kids Sleep
1. Time It Right
One of the first things you learn as a parent is that it’s much harder to put an overtired child to sleep than it is to soothe one that’s not quite ready for bed – and science is on your side. According to child sleep consultant Jennifer Waldburger, “Once a child is overtired, a stress hormone called cortisol is released, which makes it hard to settle in and causes a child to wake up more throughout the night and wake up too early.” In other words, if you start the bedtime routine too late in the evening, you’re going to have a cranky child on your hands and the ramifications could last for days.
Having a bedtime ritual can help you ensure that you start putting your child to bed early enough. This is especially true with older children who may balk at an early bedtime, but can understand the preparation involved in taking a bath, laying out clothes for the next day, and talking or reading a few books before bed.
2. Set The Mood
During the day, big bedroom windows can seem great. They light up the space, encourage your children to spend time playing independently in their rooms, and reduce the need for artificial lighting. At night, though, windows can be your greatest enemy.
Set up your child’s bedroom to be sleep-friendly by using heavy window treatments to block external light and sound. Not only will this make it easier for children to fall asleep, but it will also help them to sleep later in the morning since the sun won’t wake them up. If you live in an urban area, heavy curtains or blinds can also keep out traffic noise, streetlights, and other disturbances.
If you need to place lighting in your child’s bedroom, whether it’s bright enough for midnight diaper changes or just a simple nightlight, opt for red bulbs. Red bulbs are less stimulating to the brain and will keep your child from waking up fully during nighttime feedings or trips to the bathroom, and will help them ease back to sleep more quickly.
3. Identify Trouble Spots
Some children need extra help going to sleep. For example, conditions like ADHD and autism are both linked to sleep disturbances, and these kids can need a little extra help calming down at bedtime.
One proven way to soothe children who struggle to sleep is by giving them a massage. Be sure to use a firm hand – deep pressure from massage or from a weighted blanket can help suppress the sympathetic nervous system and increase serotonin production. Since kids with these developmental disorders are often anxious and overstimulated, this kind of gentle pressure can help them calm down at the most fundamental level.
4. Allow For Choice
Finally, as children get older, one of the main reasons for bedtime battles is lack of choice; they just don’t want to be told what to do. That doesn’t mean bedtime should become a free for all, though. No, it’s a matter of allowing for small choices, like which pair of pajamas they want to wear, which book to read, or whether to brush their teeth or put on pajamas first. These things may seem inconsequential to you as an adult, but for young children they provide a sense of control that can short-circuit the need to fight against sleep.
Even as adults, we all struggle to fall asleep sometimes, but we get to decide whether or not to read a book or have a cup of tea, and kids don’t have that power. That’s why having a sleep routine is so important to help kids sleep. When they know what to expect at bedtime, kids are better able to relax and stop resisting, and you get the peaceful evening you’ve always wanted.
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