When we have children to look after, one of the most troubling things to keep in mind is their sleep. Children need plenty of sleep to recharge their bodies and grow, but it can take a lot of work to convince them to go bed in a timely fashion. Almost every child will have difficulty falling asleep at some point in their lives, so in order to combat exhaustion and help our loved ones get to bed, here are some useful tips and things to consider.
Plan Their Day to Help Them Settle Into Bed
If your kids are having trouble falling asleep then it might be due to their daily activities. One important factor that many parents don’t consider is physical activity. Playing sports, running around and riding a bicycle will contribute to helping them use up their energy. If they try to sleep when they have plenty of energy left over then it will cause them to be restless during sleep. The idea is to always encourage your children to get some physical activity in during the day. It could be something simple like playing with their siblings or friends in the garden, or it could be a family activity like going for a relaxing bike ride together. Whatever it is, just make sure your children are being active before they get to bed.
On the contrary, mental activity like playing games, watching television and reading a book will make them feel even more restless. If your children are constantly using their brains to think or be creative, then you need to give them some time to relax and unwind before bed. You can do this by simply taking away their tablets, smartphones and computers an hour or two before bed. During that time, you’ll want to help them relax their minds by preparing a bedtime routine.
A bedtime routine usually consists of a few simple activities that aren’t stressful on the mind or body. Putting your child to bed is made a lot easier with a quick bedtime routine, and here are a couple of suggestions to help you out:
- Turn off electronics. The first thing you should do is turn off all electronics. The less stimulation your child gets, the easier it is to fall asleep.
- Put down toys. If your child is more into toys than electronics then this is when you’ll have to put them away. Pack them into their boxes or into the drawers and tidy things up like building bricks so no one steps on them.
- Take a warm bath. A soothing bath will both clean your child and let them relax their muscles so they’re prepared for bed.
- Brush their teeth. It’s important to establish a healthy and hygiene routine that is simple enough to follow even when tired.
- Swap into pajamas. Pyjamas make your children far more comfortable for when they’re actually in bed so don’t neglect to get a set of pyjamas for your child.
- Pre-bed drink. A warm glass of milk or a chilled glass of water can help settle your child’s body temperature so they’re comfortable enough to go to bed.
- Talk about their day. Reflecting on the day is a great way to have your child recap their memories.
- Read to them. If your child is still a little restless then read a story to them. Make it simple to follow and slow paced so that it helps them fall asleep.
- Bedtime. Finally, bedtime. Once they’ve fallen asleep you should turn off the lights (leave a night light on if you’d like) and tuck them in.
Your bedtime routine can contain a few other things or even omit something on this list, but the idea is to focus on simple tasks that can easily be done without much effort. Once your child has done this for a week, they’ll start to associate bedtime with this routine and their bodies will automatically start slowing down once they turn off their electronics and put away their toys.
Watch out for Stimulants
We all that that things like caffeine and sugar stimulate the body and mind and keep us awake, so why would it not affect our kids? If you give them cola or ice cream a few hours before bed then they’re going to get a rush of energy that probably won’t line up with their bedtime. Anything with even the smallest amount of caffeine should be avoided because it can make it incredibly difficult for your kids to fall asleep. In addition, desserts should be kept to a minimum if possible.
If you want to serve desserts after dinner then try and stick to healthy options such as fruit salads. Try and keep sugary drinks and snacks away from the table unless it’s the weekend for a treat. You’ll be surprised at how much easier it is to soothe a child into sleeping when they aren’t loaded with sugar from desserts and snacks that you leave around the home. However, even fruits contain sugar and you need to watch out so you don’t end up giving them too much. Even a glass a fruit juice can contain a lot of unwanted sugars, so make sure you do your best to moderate their diet and watch out for anything that keeps them awake.
Focusing on Comfort
It might just be that your child is having trouble with sleep because they’re not comfortable in bed. This could be because their bed isn’t soft or comforting enough, perhaps they don’t have enough blankets or maybe their pillow materials need to be changed. In some cases, they might not be comfortable because lights from the outside such as the moon or streetlamps could be interrupting their sleep. It’s a good idea to speak with your child in order to diagnose these issues so you have a better understanding of why they’re having trouble with their sleep.
Replacing your child’s mattress might seem expensive, but consider it an investment into their future. Take a look at this page here to find different mattresses that could suit your child. If they’re complaining about pain, then you may want to spend a few nights observing the way they sleep to see what the problem could be. In addition, you may also want to consider taking them to visit a doctor if they continue to complain about pain after waking up or discomfort while sleeping.
Limit Exposure to Electronics
It was briefly mentioned before, but this point needs to be elaborated due to its importance in getting your child to sleep. Parents often underestimate the effect that electronics have on their kids and even themselves. The main problem with technology is that the blue light emitted by screens can suppress the production of melatonin. Melatonin is the hormone that controls our circadian rhythm. In other words, it manages how we sleep. If we reduce melatonin by staring at screens for long periods of time, then it can negatively affect how long it takes for us to fall asleep.
To ensure that your children aren’t being affected by their electronics, give them at least an hour between falling asleep and when they last used an electronic device. If possible, try to keep your bedroom free of technology so that there are fewer distractions to keep them awake. That means getting rid of your laptops in the bedroom, removing all of the television screens and putting game consoles in the living room. Your children might detest this, but it’s crucial that you do it for their own sake.
Do you think that your child is not sleeping enough? A great way to tell is if you actually need to wake them up in the morning. If it takes them forever to fall asleep and you need to drag them out of bed to get them into school, then they’re probably not sleeping enough or their sleeping pattern is a little wonky. If your kids can wake up on their own without much intervention, then it’s a good sign that they’re sleeping enough and you don’t need to change their bedtime.
Start by cutting back your child’s bedtime by around 30 minutes. If they still have trouble falling asleep or waking up, then continue adding more to their bedtime. Toddlers should be getting anywhere between 10 to 14 hours of sleep a day and this will be reduced to 8 to 10 hours once they grow older. If you find it hard to tuck them in earlier, then try and get them to use up more energy during the day. Whether it’s going out with friends more often or exercising a little, there are plenty of ways to get your kids to fall asleep earlier.
Hopefully, these tips have given you some idea on how you can cope with a child that has trouble sleeping. Sleep is important especially when your children are still developing, so make this a priority to teach them better sleeping habits and to design their room for maximum comfort.
GetConnectDad is growing at an incredible pace because parents are actively sharing what we are doing with their friends and families. We are so thankful. If you would like to receive a bi-weekly summary of articles like this, please fill out our subscription form below. We are very careful to limit the number of emails we send per month because we, like you, are busy parents!