10 Tips To Get Your Kids To Sleep Well
With all the energy they expend during their waking hours you’d think that kids would be struggling to stay awake at the dinner table.
Well, some kids do. But there are those that turn putting them to sleep into a dreaded task. Parents have to resort to bribes, pleas and all kinds tricks to try and make them drowsy.
And the worst part is that the longer they stay awake the crankier they get and it becomes even more difficult to get them to sleep.
It’s normal to have a non-sleeper. But unless there is a health issue involved, there are several ways you can help them go to sleep without losing your sanity.
Here are some tips you can try. Find the best ones that will work for your situation and your child’s age.
1. Have an Evening Routine
Whether your child is just a few months old or in preschool, a routine is extremely important especially towards the evening.
A routine prepares your child’s body and mind for what’s coming. If they know they go to sleep every day at a certain time, they are less likely to protest. It just becomes…normal.
Make sure your child knows when they should come in from playing outside or when they should switch off the TV and take a bath. Follow it up with precise dinner times and then preparation for bed.
Whichever order works best for you, the most important thing is to stick to it.
2. Associate Bedtime (and the Bedroom) With Good Things
Maybe your kid dreads bedtime as much as you do. Perhaps they are afraid of the dark or being left alone in the bed. Or maybe they feel like they are missing out on fun stuff.
All these negative associations can keep them from sleeping well.
The trick is to give them something to look forward to; maybe a story or a cuddle with mummy or daddy.
Buying them a stuffed toy to cuddle with can also help. Another idea is to change how the room looks in the dark. Maybe add some glow-in-the-dark stars and planets on the ceiling.
Sometimes even getting them a sheet or comforter decorated with their favorite cartoon or movie character can make them more eager to go to bed.
3. Stop Making it About Sleep
This is closely associated with the above point.
Unlike parents who find every opportunity to catch a snooze, many kids are not big fans of sleeping.
So if you keep insisting on the whole sleep thing, the more troublesome they’ll get. It’s the same way pushing a child to eat his vegetables doesn’t usually work. You have to find a different way to coax them.
If you keep pushing, they create a negative association between bedtime and sleep.
As soon as evening arrives, they are already preparing themselves to fight you. The more you insist they need to sleep, the louder and crankier the protests.
Try changing tactics. Get rid of the term ‘sleep’. Instead find a different way to frame it.
You can tell them that they need to rest to have the energy to play tomorrow or maybe they need to give their body time to digest their dinner. If they love robots, you can tell them they need to shut down and recharge.
Whatever works as long as it is not ‘you need to sleep’.
4. Turn off TV and Gadgets
This one applies just as much to adults as it does to kids.
Gadgets and bedtime don’t go well together. The blue light is bad for the hormone that helps us sleep. The gadgets are also too exciting.
As part of your routine, make sure your kids know when it’s time to turn off the TV and all other gadgets. Set a rule that beyond a certain time, ideally before dinner, all gadgets should be turned off until the next day.
Make sure everyone, including mum and dad, follows that rule.
5. Provide a Comfortable Sleeping Environment
Sometimes it could just be that your child is not comfortable. This should actually be the first thing you check when sleeping problems start to creep in.
Check the mattress. A child’s mattress should be comfortably firm. It should not sag or feel too soft. If the mattress looks or feels worn out, get a new one. Visit their website to find the best mattresses.
Next, make sure the room is not too warm or too cold. Also check that there aren’t any noises that are waking them up at night or a harsh light that is lighting up the room from outside.
6. Understand and Respond to Their Fears
When your kid refuses to go to sleep they can give some pretty ridiculous reasons: a monster under the bed, a strange animal in the room and so on.
Don’t dismiss these fears immediately. Or even if you do, don’t let them see it.
Play along. Check under the bed and behind the curtain together, ‘spray’ away the monster and convince them that there are no weird shapes in the dark.
He is more likely to sleep better when you understand and respond to his fears rather than dismiss them.
7. Use Bribes and Promises
Yes, sometimes you have to turn to this often frowned-upon parenting trick. Promising your child an extra spoonful of cereal or a big kiss in the morning can help when things turn dire.
For older kids that don’t want to be left alone, one trick that works well is to promise you’ll be back shortly. Tell them there is something urgent you need to do like load the dish washer or take a bath.
But make sure you come back. Often you’ll find that they’ve already fallen asleep.
8. Keep them Active During the Day
If your kids are not expending enough energy during the day, they’ll have trouble getting drowsy at night.
Don’t let them spend more than 30 minutes at a time watching TV, playing video games or doing nothing.
Find games to play together, take them to the park or buy toys that will keep them active through the day.
9. Try Sleeping Sounds
If your child is restless or keeps waking up when she hears any sound, try some sleeping sounds like rain, birds or soft music.
Play them softly on a speaker set right next to the bed. If you have a home smart speaker like Amazon Echo or Google Home, you can also ask it to play some relaxing sounds for sleeping.
10. Watch Out for Sleep Disorders
While it is normal for some kids to have trouble sleeping, sometimes the problem is more serious than it seems.
Watch out for symptoms of sleep disorders like insomnia or sleep apnea.
Some of the common symptoms of a sleep disorders include waking up tired and feeling drowsy during the day, staying awake for too long past bedtime, snoring, nightmares and sleep walking.
If you suspect that your child has a sleep disorder, make an appointment with a pediatrician. Depending on their diagnosis, you might be referred to a sleep specialist for further analysis and treatment advice.
Undiagnosed sleep disorders not only leaves your child tired and cranky, they can cause behavioral problems that affect their school work and relationships with other people around them.