The nightmare of every parent is getting their kids to go to bed – and keeping them there.
Sleep plays a crucial role in maintaining good health for your kids. When children get sleep-deprived, they are more likely to develop behavioral problems, have trouble learning in school, they become more hyper and irritable.
And when they can’t sleep….. you can’t sleep.
Every parent knows the struggle. The first goodnight isn’t the final one.
After a long day at work, your kids get tucked in and you give a loud sigh of relief. You are finally going to bed and you have high hopes for the next day. You’ll wake up to prepare a fresh breakfast and hopefully get to work in time for your early meeting.
Then comes the loud cry and noise from your kids (they won’t stop till you get up from your bed and walk to their room)
Kids would do anything to prolong sleep until you are at the brim of losing your patience!
So what then can you do?
Though there are no one-size-fits-all since each child is different l, these tips and pointers can help your child get the sleep they need:
Create a Bedtime Routine
Your child will benefit from the structure you cry regarding your bedtime routine.
Creating a bedtime routine can take the stress away from both the parent and the child. A routine usually starts around the same time and has the same activities to encourage good sleeping patterns.
Kids live, love, crave and thrive on structure as it gives them a sense of safety, security, and control.
It’s usually a good idea to begin 30 – 45 minutes before the actual routine starts. This can include switching off the TV, playing relaxing music, dimming the lights, and talking softer to create a sleeping environment. These subtle changes are cues that your child will pick to know that bedtime is approaching.
A good bedtime routine includes:
- Bathing your kids
- Putting on pajamas
- Brushing their teeth
- Reading them a bedtime story
- Goodnight hugs and kisses
The key to making this work is consistency. When you are consistent, your child will learn and adapt to it.
Create an ideal sleeping environment
Your child’s room should help you promote sleeping. Soft sheets, dark rooms, and relative quietness can help your child know the difference between day and night, and fall asleep faster.
If you want to put a light on for your child, it is best to use a nightlight or dim light. For children who are receptive to noise, you can consider creating a steady and rhythmic sound using a noise machine or fan.
Ideally, you want to reduce distractions to help them fall asleep quietly.
Turn Off the Electronics
It’s a good idea to turn off the televisions, computer games, and other electronic devices at least an hour before bedtime.
These devices promote wakefulness through the blue light emitting from them and the stimulating content. Oftentimes, trick the child’s brain into believing that it is still daytime and he/she can stay awake.
Make sure that the bedroom is screen-free or at least the screens should be dark at midnight. If you are using your phone in this room, put it on silent (speaking from personal experience)!
Rather than allowing your child to play with electronic devices at night, try reading them a bedtime story.
Ensure Your Child Feels Safe at Night
Avoid scary movies, Tv shows, or computer games at night. If your child feels frightened about ghosts or scary creatures, talk to them about it rather than dismissing it.
You can praise or reward your child whenever they are brave or even use a special toy or spray as a “security guy” to bring good dreams and ward off the scary ones (Yes, it works).
You can also leave on a dim light so they can feel safe.
Having them draw pictures of their nightmares and tossing them away is also a fantastic trick in the books.
Keep Older Children’s Nap Early and Short
If your child is between 3-5 years, you should keep their naps short and sweet.
It should take no longer than 30 minutes and no later than early afternoon.
It is a general rule of thumb that longer naps can make it harder for children to fall asleep at night.
Caffeine is a stimulant and it’s not often good for children. If you allow your child to take soft drinks before bedtime, make sure it is sugar and caffeine-free.
Caffeine can be found in energy drinks, cola, chocolates, coffee, and tea.
Encourage your kids to avoid these things for at least three hours before bedtime.
If your child is hungry and asks for a meal close to bedtime, give them warm milk and light healthy snacks such as fruits or biscuits.
Manage Stress to Make Sure Your Child Isn’t Overtired
Overtired kids experience more difficulty in falling asleep than alert ones because they tend to be hyperactive.
Juggling through homework, after-school activities, and playdates can make your school kids stay up past bedtime.
So, you need to find ways to manage your stress, make more time for homework, and find time to relax. Try scheduling homework immediately after school or talking to their tutors to reduce the workload.
Before bedtime, encourage your kids to wind down by reading a story, practicing breathing, or listening to calm music.
Your kids aren’t adults and expecting them to fall asleep without any problems will make you frustrated.
However, with consistency, you can find the perfect balance between daytime and nighttime routines.
Changing habits takes time. Your child will learn to sleep if you stick to established routines. So take the time to teach your kid about the new bedtime routine.
Test our different methods to see what works for your child. Be patient, going to bed is something that will happen naturally – just not yet.
If you suspect your child may have sleeping disorders – trouble falling asleep, persistent nightmares, breathing from the mouth – you can talk to a pediatrician about it.
They would likely recommend a sleep consultant or give you more personalized suggestions depending on your situation.