Sleeping is as essential to our children’s health as what they eat and how much physical activity they get. Use these simple tips to help your family sleep better.
- Work as a team. As parents, you need to work together and support each other to ensure everyone gets the sleep they need. Having a plan and common approach for your child will increase the success you see.
- Make sure your child is comfortable in a safe sleep environment. Always ensure the sleep environment is cool and dark and your child is sleeping in weather appropriate clothing. Place babies to sleep on their back alone in an approved crib with no loose items in the sleep space.
- Try to avoid rocking and feeding your child to sleep. If they awake in the middle of the night they will expect these same cues to fall asleep again. If you’re already doing this, gradually phase out these behaviours to help your little one learn how to self-soothe to sleep. Also, try to feed at the beginning of the bedtime routine.
- Be consistent. Children thrive on routine. They fuss and cry less when they know what to expect.
- Create bedtime and sleep routines. These can start in infancy and continue through high school although they will change as children grow. Creating a soothing sleep routine helps to cue your kids that bedtime is coming soon. For naps, the routine should be only about 10 minutes whereas at bedtime it might be 20.
- After dinner, try to avoid stimulating activities and screen time. Instead reach for books, colouring, quiet play or family time playing.
- Early bedtimes are important. It is far better to put your child to bed earlier than later as their bodies will start to produce cortisol which will make it hard to fall asleep.
- Give a short warning before bedtime. Let your child know that it’s five minutes until bedtime but avoid negotiation. When a young child is tired, it is harder for them to identify their needs logically.
- If a child calls out for you wait a moment or two before going in. With infants, try to wait around 30 seconds and with older children try a few minutes. Working on self-soothing to sleep is hard but having a plan in place with your partner on board will help you create the consistency you need.
- Create a device charging starting away from your bed. If you currently use your phone as an alarm clock, I highly encourage you to place your phone in airplane mode when you start your bedtime routine or dare I say “use an old-fashioned alarm clock.”
Making sleep your families’ priority will help everyone and leading by example with these tips will help model your expectations.
Alison McAdam is a Certified Paediatric Sleep Consultant and the founder of Cheeky Sleeper. She works with families to provide sleep solutions for each family’s unique needs.