Being a parent is hard enough without dealing with years of sleep deprivation because your kids don’t ever go to sleep when they are supposed to. We expect babies to wake up multiple times in the night because that’s what babies do. It is even less fun when your baby becomes a toddler and they are still waking up two or three times a night, or refusing to go to bed full stop.
The occasional night of disruption is acceptable. After all, children sometimes get sick or have a bad nightmare and don’t sleep as well. When this happens you comfort them, let them come and share the bed with you, and just suck it up. You know you can catch up on your sleep in a night or so, so it isn’t the end of the world. But if your child hardly ever sleeps through and is a permanent night owl, it can be really hard to live with; especially if you work full-time and have to leave the house at the crack of dawn.
The best way to prevent this type of scenario is to instill good sleep habits from the very beginning. That way your child will grow up with a regular bedtime routine that never deviates except on holidays or special days. So if you are having problems persuading your child that bed time means time for bed, here are a few tips to help you reclaim your evenings and get a good night’s sleep.
Children need routines. Without the framework of bedtime, mealtimes and playtimes, children soon start to push the boundaries of what is, and what isn’t, acceptable. An appropriate bedtime routine will help them get enough sleep at night, and since sleep is extremely important for a child’s development, it is absolutely vital that you develop an effective bedtime routine from a young age.
It’s Time for Bed
An appropriate time for bed will depend on whether it’s a normal week or you are staying somewhere different, but in general, most young children and toddlers should be in bed around 7pm. Older children can stay up a bit later, which will allow you to have some special time practicing reading or helping them with homework, but up to the age of 10/11, kids need to be in bed before 9pm.
The idea of a bedtime routine is to calm a child down and prepare them for bed. This would normally include taking a warm bath, brushing teeth, and reading a bedtime story. Allow around half an hour for the wind down to bed and make sure you stick to the same routine every night so that it becomes “normal”.
How to Juggle Multiple Kids
It can be hard when you have several children of different ages. Babies are the most demanding, so you will have to cater for their feeding schedule first, but in the case of other children, try and stagger their bedtime routines so that each child has some one-on-one time with you. Partners and grandparents can help in this regard, as can older siblings, but make sure you swap duties regularly so each person gets to spend special time with each child.
Create a Relaxing Bedroom
Children will be more inclined to go to bed without a murmur if they like their bedroom and it is a quiet, relaxing place. Choosing the right bed is important. Toddlers are ready to make the move to a bed when they are able to climb out of their cot. Look for special toddler sized beds with a mattress protector and guard rails on the side to prevent falls, and then once they are older, you can buy them an adult-sized bed.
Younger children might want a night light if they are fearful of the dark or the bogeyman living in the closet. This is fine. Let them have a night light or leave the light on outside their bedroom for as long as they wish. Most kids do grow out of their fears within a few years.
Say No to Smartphones in the Bedroom
With older kids, remove electrical devices from the bedroom at bedtime. No child will sleep well if they have access to their smartphone, tablet or computer after dark. Instead they will spend way too much time checking up on social network accounts or messaging friends instead of sleeping.
Establishing a cast-iron bedtime routine from a young age will help to prevent bedtime problems later on. You may still have nights where your child refuses to go to bed or has a screaming fit when you try to leave them, but stick to the routine and this phase will soon pass.
What are some bedtime sleep habits in children that you’ve used?