Having a child that is having problems sleeping can be very difficult both on the child and the parent(s). Not only is the child not able to get adequate sleep, but more than likely it is causing the parent(s) to not get enough sleep either. We all know that not getting enough sleep can cause not only irritability but many other issues in our daily lives including health issues. So it is very important to take the steps needed in helping your child sleep better. Here are some tips that we hope will help!
Having a bedtime routine is one of the most crucial things to help your child sleep better. It helps children feel secure because of the predictability. Ideally, all people, including young children should go to sleep and wake around the same time every day and yes, that includes weekends as well. Children need around 10-12 hours of sleep at night, so that means if they have an early rise time for school, their bedtime should be early enough to ensure they are getting a full night's sleep.
Bedtime rituals are especially important for younger children. Doing specific things before bed will help signal to your child what is coming next. If you have an infant, it might be as simple as singing a song and turning on the white-noise machine. If you have a toddler or older, they are old enough where you can ask for their input about what they would like to do for their bedtime routine (i.e. how many books they would like to read or which song to sing). This gives the child a sense of control and helps them identify their own needs. You can even write down (or have pictures for children that can’t read yet) the steps for them.. Put on pajamas, brush teeth, read books, cuddle and light out. This is so everyone knows exactly what will happen next and if there is any resistance, you can refer the child back to the list of steps. After a while of doing the routine, the child will internalize it and be less likely to ask for things that are not on the list. Also when I child knows what is coming next is comforting and sets the perfect bedtime atmosphere and before long your child’s body will automatically start becoming sleepy at the beginning of the routine.
Keep it Positive
Sometimes when parents work full-time during the day, in the evenings it becomes the only time the children get attention from the parent. In turn, this can make the children unsettled around bedtime simply because they are longing for more attention. But on the other hand, when the parent is home all the time, the children can become dependent on their parent’s presence for comfort. Either way, just spending a few minutes asking your children about their day, while only focusing on the positive is a great ritual for a child. For babies, this simply can be spending 5-10 minutes focusing on cuddling with them and making eye contact while also singing to talking soothingly.
You always want to try and stay positive around bedtime because “stress hormones”, also known as cortisol, can cause your child’s body not to be able to shut down and go to sleep. Keep everything as calm as possible before bedtime, dim the lights and the environment quite, so to help avoid excess amounts of cortisol in your child’s system, which will help them sleep more soundly.
Insisting a child go to sleep can increase their anxiety. Just like many adults, children can have trouble shutting off their brains as well. Try taking the focus off sleep and talk about relaxing. The idea of relaxation is more likely to calm your child’s body and help them fall asleep before you know it.
This can be difficult for some parents because we have trouble powering down ourselves but it really is very important. Electronic screens are not good right before sleep because the light stimulates the brain, plus it can inhibit melatonin and serotonin production which are your sleep hormones. Ideally, bedrooms should be a screen-free zone or at least make sure all screens are completely off for bedtime. If possible, kids should turn off screens at least 1-2 hours before bedtime. Just half an hour of tv or other screen time before bed is able to keep a child up an extra two hours.
If you’re able to limit the screen time, it can help in other ways too. Children that are off screens will more than likely be more active and burn through their natural physical energy, which will make them easier to settle at bedtime. Basically what happens during the day will affect the mood at night.
Create a Sleep-Inducing Environment
Good “sleep hygiene” is another important step in helping your child get better sleep. Basically, you should try and only use the bed and bedroom for resting. Any toys or distractions should be cleaned up before bed, or even better yet, stored in another area of the house if possible. The stronger sleep associated with the bed and bedroom you can create will make it easier for your child to fall asleep and stay asleep throughout the night.
Also, while a toy or stuffed animal can make it easier for your child to fall asleep, too many toys can be a bad thing. Have them only pick one toy to keep in the bed with them. Create a relaxing environment in the bedroom with soft sheets, black-out curtains, and quiet as possible. This can also help your child differentiate between day and night to make it easier for them to fall asleep. The temperature of the room is also important because the melatonin levels will help regulate with the drop of internal body temperature. So, if you're able, drop the temperature in the room and don’t dress them in bulky hot pajamas. This promotes better sleep. Lastly, sound machines are great! They help block out any outside noises and the soothing sounds promote relaxation.
Provide Protection from Fears
Fears are normal, even bedtime fears. Instead of dismissing them, address them and provide simple reassurance. It doesn’t have to be anything elaborate, sometimes just simply talking through the fears can help. Acknowledging that having fears are okay and reassuring the child. If reassurance doesn’t work, maybe try buying a “special toy” that can stand guard at night or you can spray the room with “monster spray” before bed. It can be water in a spray bottle or even a can of air freshener with a creative new label. Every child is different, so just keep trying different things till you find what makes your child the most comfortable.
Look out for Sleep Disorders
Sometimes, despite our best efforts, some children can continue to have trouble falling asleep or staying asleep throughout the night. This can be too persistent nightmares or night terrors, or they could even have a sleep disorder. Make sure to discuss this with their pediatrician and they will be able to help you come up with a solution. A simple melatonin supplement might be the answer and Mauricettes has an amazing yummy Strawberry Gummy that children will love and have no problem taking.