One of the biggest issues I have with my children, is how to get them settled for bed at night. Nearly every parent has had to deal with the challenge of putting a child to bed at some stage and that is why bedtime can be a recurring nightmare for many parents (I know it has been for me!)
It seems odd that children require much more sleep than adults do, yet many resist sleeping with every fibre in their body. This can put both parents and children under pressure and lead to poor household sleep for everyone.
So how do you get your children to sleep at night? And more specifically how do you reliably get them to go to sleep at night? Here are my seven tips that should (hopefully) get your toddlers to sleep on time every night.
1. Get your Child in a Proper Bedtime Routine
The development of a children's bedtime routine will take the stress out of bedtime for both parents and children. Children enjoy and flourish in order, because it gives them a sense of stability and protection. However, bringing your child into a bedtime habit helps them establish sleep associations which helps them prepare for bed.
A regular bedtime routine that starts at around the same time every night promotes good sleep patterns. A bath, a good book and a regular bedtime pattern will help the younger kids feel sleep-ready.
It's a good idea to start the bedtime ritual with a wind down cycle 15-30 minutes before they start their actual bedtime routine. This may include turning off the TV, playing relaxing music, dimming lights, speaking softly and even moving slower.
Here's my typical bedtime routine with my kids:
- Bath time with all three girls at 6:30pm
- Bailey gets a story read at 7:00pm
- Myself or Sam will then read a story to Coco and Minnie at 7:30pm (the girls can already read, but I like reading to them both to spend quality time together)
- Lights out is at 7:45pm
- By 8:00pm all girls are asleep
Based on what you feel best for your child's individual needs, the procedure itself can be adjusted or modified completely. It's not so much the routine components that are important but the key consistency.
2. Know how much sleep your child should be getting
Depending on your child’s age, they will require different amounts of sleep. From total hours of sleep each day, to how many hours a night we sleep, to normal napping patterns, knowing the sleeping needs of your child will help you set boundaries and bedtime rules for your children.
- 1 to 4 weeks old- Newborns sleep about 16-17 hours a day, with wakefulness cycles that last 1-3 hours. Most newborns, however, have not formed a pattern of night / day sleep, so their cycles of sleep and wakefulness can differ to all day hours.
- 1 to 4 months old- Babies of this age still tend to sleep about the same amount of hours, but their night / day sleep cycles are starting to kick in, allowing them to sleep longer at night, though they are still waking up for feedings and changes.
- 4 months to 1 year- Babies of that age also need about 14-15 hours of daily sleep. Many can sleep through most of the night, however, and take up to 3 naps during the day and at night. It's important to really start developing healthy sleep habits for your child during this time.
- 1 to 3 years- Many babies require between 12-14 hours of sleep, but often get less in the house because of the schedules of parents and older children.
- 3 to 6 years- Around 11–12 hours ' night. Younger children in this category may still need a short nap during the day, but by the time they enter primary school, the need to nap generally decreases.
Create the perfect sleeping environment for your child
For good sleep a peaceful, dimly lit space is necessary (trust me, I’ve had my experience). Keeping their room dark, quiet and calm is safest, as many younger children will need a lot of light in their room so it's perfectly acceptable to have a nightlight or a dim light on while they try to sleep. If your child feels scared of going to bed or being in the dark, they can be encouraged and rewarded every time they are brave. Avoiding scary TV shows, movies and games can also help.
Make sure your child stays active
It's crucial that your kids get plenty of exercise during the day that will help them wind down faster at night. I know our two new puppies Willow and Whiskey definitely keep the kids on their toes! This keeps them active and fit during the day - however, it is important to hold their final playtime at least three hours before bedtime.
Avoid meals and caffeine before bedtime
Caffeine is a stimulant, and nevertheless is not very good for babies. If you allow your child to have an occasional soft drink, make sure they have no sugar and caffeine-containing beverages within 3 hours of bedtime.
Before bedtime, snacks are perfectly acceptable as long as they are healthy and not very full. Snacks such as a warm glass of milk, or a light healthy snack such as fruit or crackers, can be given to your child if they do ask for food and drink before bedtime.
Avoid Screen Time Before Bed
A recent study conducted by the University of Auckland in New Zealand reveals proof that using bright screens before naps or bedtime is terrible for sleep. The study noted how much time kids and teens spent playing video games and watching television in the 90 minutes leading up to their bedtime, and then tracked how long it took them to fall asleep. It was noted that children who watched more television and played more video games before going to bed had to fall asleep for longer than those who watched less, or none.
Be on the lookout for signs of sleep disorders
If you have developed a regular bedtime routine and made adjustments to suit the individual needs of your child, and still have sleeping problems, your child may have a sleep disorder. Keep a close eye on both the nighttime sleeping habits and activities of your infant, as well as how they work during daytime.
Keep a close eye on both your child's nighttime sleeping behaviors and patterns as well as how they function during the day. It could be a symptom of an underlying sleep disorder if they are excessively exhausted during the day, have difficulty concentrating on homework, or have behavioural problems at home or in school.