When it comes to children’s bedtime, there are many anxieties that parents have about their children getting enough sleep and getting good quality sleep. And these anxieties or worries are not misplaced either – getting a good night’s sleep is very crucial for children as proper rest and relaxation is needed for proper mental and physical growth. Unlike adults who can sometimes work on sleep deprivation or be caffeinated to tackle the same, children become groggy and cranky when they are not getting sufficient rest. While adequate sleep is important for everyone, in children it is especially more so, as these habits can not only hamper their daily activities but also become habits for life. As they say, good habits start early and getting good sleep is definitely a habit that should be inculcated from an early age. While many may attribute early birds or night owls to their intrinsic behavior, there is some advantage to setting good sleep schedules for children. How you teach them about sleep schedules, how you put them to bed for the night and how you set routines, can have a far reaching and positive impact on the children. So even if it takes a while, take the time and have the patience to do this early, so both you and your child can get adequate rest, going forward. Here are some tips on how to make your child sleep better!
- Follow a bedtime and wake time schedule
Nobody benefits more fixed schedules than children. While initially it may be difficult to put them to bed and wake them up at fixed times, it gets easier with every passing day. Moreover, children who sleep well, wake up by themselves in the morning. It may be tempting to tell your child that it’s time for bed or insist on it, but for this to become a habit, it’s best to gently coax them into a schedule with encouragement and other kind words.
- Set a bedtime routine
As mentioned above, it is important to follow a schedule for the child’s bedtime. Instead of just telling them to go to bed, make the bedtime routine an enjoyable one. A few hours before bedtime, you can opt for a warm and soothing bath. This can be followed by soothing music or reading story books with your child. Older children can be taught to practice deep breaths as a means to relax. By creating soothing activities around bedtime, you can encourage your child to call it a night more easily.
- Reduce stress or excitement well before bedtime
If your child is still excited from playtime or his/her mind is stimulated due to activities before bedtime, they may be less likely to fall asleep or even stay still. As this stress hormone is what keeps us aware and jumpy, they are more unlikely to fall asleep after playtime. So make it a point to wind up playtime, outdoor exercises and other high-energy activities well before bedtime, to help them relax and unwind. While these activities are good for spending their energy and thus making them fall asleep faster, it should be done a few hours before bedtime.
- Relax before bedtime
Playing or engaging in physical/mental activities right before bedtime can keep your children awake, rather than putting them to sleep. Children need to wind down and become relaxed before they can sleep, so it’s a good idea to keep playtime and other activities to the early afternoon, rather than evening.
- Turn off screens at least 2 hours before bedtime
It is not uncommon for children today to be entertained and educated through screens. However, the sleep cycles are regulated by melatonin, which is suppressed by daylight, thus keeping people awake and energetic through the day. Blue light from screens also suppresses this hormone, thereby making it difficult for them to fall asleep. Hence, it’s beneficial for their bedtime if screens are turned off a few hours prior to bedtime.
- Reduce naps during the day time
Children often take naps during the day, to replenish their energy levels. Most children stop regular naps after the age of 5 or 6. While this is an essential part of their early childhood, as they get older naps may make bedtime more difficult. For older kids, you can limit naps to 20 to 30 minutes in the early afternoon and avoid any naps post late afternoon, so they have an easier time falling asleep.
- Ensure your child feels safe and secure
This is also the time when many children transition from their parent’s room or bed to their own beds and bedrooms. This transition may sometimes be scary to the little ones, so it helps to ensure that they feel secure and safe in their new surroundings. Placing their favorite toys or blankets or humming their favorite lullabies from childhood, can make them feel at ease, thus making it easier to fall asleep.
- Make the lights and sounds in the children’s room conducive to sleeping
Did you know that the child’s bedroom can also be a hindrance to falling asleep or staying asleep if not set up properly? Lights and sounds are stimulants that can not only prevent children from falling asleep but also wake them up or startle them. Thus, it’s a good practice to use dimmed lights and a white noise machine to help them settle into a routine. If taking a nap during the day, make sure the room has blinds to block the light. Moreover, the correct temperature is also conducive to setting the right ambiance for sleep as is proper ventilation. If your child has a tendency to get a blocked nose, consider using a humidifier to improve their quality of sleep.
- Feed them the right meal at the right time
Rather than staying asleep, children can often wake up in the middle of the night, due to an empty or partially filled stomach. As the child grows, he or she may become picky about eating and this can lead to them not eating a full or balanced meal. This in turn can affect the quality of sleep. So it’s important to give them a full meal not too long before bedtime, so they have ample time to digest the food as well keeping their tummy full as they sleep.
- Avoid caffeine and sugar later in the night
Having too much sugar or caffeine such as in the form of sweets, chocolate, cake or carbonated drinks can spike the sugar rush or caffeine level, both of which can keep them awake way past their bedtime. Instead opt for a healthy sweet treat like a fruit, which can satiate the sweet craving and also not hinder their sleeping schedule.
With these tips, you can greatly help your child to sleep better. Tell us in the comments below if there’s anything else that has helped your little one!