When it comes to children and sleep, one of the biggest concerns from parents is getting them to bed on time every night. Let’s face it, life is busy. Having a child who doesn’t want to go to sleep tests our limits, frustrates us, and can leave us feeling overwhelmed and beat. Nearly every parent has had to deal with the difficulty of putting a restless child to bed at some point, and for many parents, bedtime is a recurring disastrous nightmare.
Once we're out of the baby stage, we assume sleep will come naturally to our children. But that isn't always the case. Kids need more sleep than adults - period. However, they somehow have the stamina and willpower to resist sleep however they possibly can. Sound familiar?
This can cause a strain on parents, along with the child, and can simply lead to poor sleep for the entire household. If you have school-aged children, it also can lead to tougher mornings and more trouble getting them to focus and make it through the school day.
So how can we make bedtime go a little smoother? Is it possible for the evening to fill your heart with love rather than make you want to scream and run down the street and hide? It is. It just takes a little effort and consistency.
Here are five ways you can improve the sleep of your older kids.
Know how much sleep your child should be getting
Educate yourself on just how much sleep your kid is supposed to be getting at their age and aim for that on most nights.
1 to 3 years- Most toddlers need about 12-14 hours of sleep, but can often get less due to the family schedule. At this age children should be taking one nice long midday nap (what I wouldn’t do for a nap each day…sigh).
3 to 6 years- Approximately 11-12 hours of sleep. Younger children of this group may still require a short nap still, but the need to nap usually goes bye-bye before the time they enter Kindergarten.
7 to 12 years- Children of these age groups tend to need about 10-12 hours of nightly sleep but with busy life schedules, many only get about 9-10 hours.
Implement a consistent bedtime routine
By having a solid bedtime routine, you can take the stress out of the evening for both the parents and the child. Kids love and thrive on structure. Why? It gives them a strong sense of security and safety and helps prepare and welcome their sleep time. 20-30 minutes is the perfect length for a bedtime routine!
It's a smart idea to have a bedtime 'wind down' ritual that begins 15-30 minutes before your child’s actual bedtime routine begins. This can include turning off devices or the TV, dimming lights, closing blinds, taking things down a notch, moving slower and even talking in a softer voice. You can even play some relaxing music. These suggest the big, long sleep is coming up!
Consistency is KEY. Keep your nightly ritual the same and you will soon be embracing how lovely sleep can be.
Here's a sample bedtime routine for a child who's over the age of 2:
- Brush Teeth
- Potty (if they are at that stage)
- Kisses and good nights
Kids love to follow along with a visual chart and to know what is happening next. It also empowers them to show their parents how they can get ready for sleep and it also helps them form great habits in a fun way. CLICK HERE for free downloadable charts you can print and use at home!
Make sure they get regular exercise
It's important that children get their daily fix of exercise during the day. This not only helps the bedtime wind down, but it’s also good for their health and overall happiness! However, remember that ending a rambunctious playtime or hectic event a couple hours before bedtime is suggested, or you may have an overstimulated and giddy monkey on your hands.
Limit their intake of sugary snacks
Make sure you cut out any sugary snacks or drinks a couple hours before bedtime. Snacks are perfectly fine before bedtime as long as they're healthy. Think cheese and crackers, granola and grapes, apples and PB (if they aren’t allergic!), berries and yogurt, milk (coconut, almond, cow) and a non-sugary cereal (Cheerios, for example).
Create a peaceful and inviting sleep space
Keep their bedroom or sleeping nook cool, quiet and dark so that it promotes sleeping. A dim nightlight that doesn’t flash, shine too bright or play crazy music is fine and little ones sometimes like a soft glow.
If your house is noisy, a sound machine in a white noise or rain setting can be a good idea. Make sure it’s a constant rhythmic and steady sound and not up and down. An 'Ocean Waves' setting sounds beautiful, but it can be stimulating. Keep that sound for your rested beach holiday time!
Do a temperature check. Sleep usually begins when our body temperature drops, so a cooler room can encourage children to fall asleep faster. 65-72 degrees Fahrenheit is the recommended temperature.
It's easy to underestimate the value of sleep and implement a few simple steps to make everyone happier, healthier and a little less desperate for caffeine. Need more advice? Check out the WeeSleep Facebook page for lots of free advice!