Are you having difficulties getting your little one (or little ones) to bed at night? Do your children have trouble staying asleep? There are many common problems that a number of parents face when putting their kids to bed at night. In this blog post, we will hopefully arm you with some tips to help you survive that “witching hour”.
- Don’t miss the window!
One common misconception by parents is that their child “just does not seem tired” at bedtime. Assuming it is a reasonable time for bed (6:00 – 8:00 PM), a very energetic/ hyper child is an overtired child. This means that we have missed the window. “The window” is a period of time where a child is ready for bed, but not showing overt signs of fatigue, such as hyperactivity, crankiness, inability to listen, etc. The key is to catch your child right before the window. Start your bedtime routine with plenty of time to have a relaxed and calm bedtime process. Let’s be honest, not every night will be perfect. Even when you catch the window, your child may still be hanging from the chandelier. Nevertheless, using this method consistently will ensure that overall bedtime is a much more pleasant experience for parent and child.
- Stick to a routine.
Just as an adult who routinely takes a shower and reads a book before turning out the light for bed, children also need to be primed for sleep. There can certainly be small areas of variability (such as which book to read and which bedtime song to sing) but the majority of the routine should remain the same. Each night as you start the bedtime routine, the child’s body will naturally start to know that bedtime is near.
As tempting as it is to turn on a video or TV prior to bed, the lighting from the screen sends a conflicting message to the body and actually tells it to stay awake. It is most helpful to shut off the device 30 to 60 minutes prior to bedtime. Reading to your child is the best way to ensure a healthy sleep as well as further their learning. Bedtime stories also provides a venue to connect and bond with your child prior to sleep. TVs should never be placed in a child’s bedroom. Avoid turning on the TV for a cranky child overnight when sleep escapes them, as it will further stimulate them to stay awake.
- Sleep environment.
In order to establish an appropriate sleep environment, one may want to invest in room darkening shades for the windows, and a sound machine for white noise. The lights should also be limited to a night light or no light at all. For many children, having a comfort object such as a stuffed animal or a blanket is essential for healthy sleep and sleep transitions.
- Daylight Savings Time (“Yippee, an extra hour of sleep!” -said no parent ever)
Time changes of any kind are particularly challenging, even if it is just an hour. One method that works well for many children is to have your children stay up 10 minutes later a week prior to the time change. For those children that are particularly early risers, the time change can be worse than a root canal for a parent. When you are eating lunch at 9:00 AM because you have been up for 5 hours, it is never a good thing. In this case, it is even more important to stick to routine, and to utilize the room darkening shades. Some children may even benefit from a child friendly clock that shows when it is time to go to sleep and when it is time to wake up (these clocks exist for younger children, in the form of an animal that is shown to be awake or sleeping).
For more general information pertaining to sleep, please visit the article from the AAP. For more specific information related to your child’s particular sleep habits, please do not hesitate to call our office.