Getting kids to sleep on time is a challenge for most families. Whether it’s a toddler who just won’t let mommy and daddy get on with their evening or a teen who’s on their tablet into the wee hours of the morning, sleep problems can affect any child at any age of their growing years. In many ways, sleep is a reflection of the way your family culture has been developed over time and it’s also something that you can work on and improve. Here are ten tips for getting your kids to sleep on time.
- Keep Wake-Up Times Consistent Every Day
Getting to sleep on time at night has everything to do with starting your day on time — consistently, every day of the week. A child who wakes at 9 am in the morning might not take a nap until 3 pm in the afternoon, leading to a final bedtime of 10 pm or later! According to an Australian study, changing sleep times can lead to hyperactive behavior — even if your child is getting enough total hours of sleep. Fortunately, switching to a regular timetable helps to correct this kind of behavior as well.
- Schedule Physical Activity in the Morning and Afternoon
Sleep and wake cycles are closely linked to changes in body temperature. When we’re awake and active, our body temperature rises. When we enter into the deepest phases of sleep, our body temperature decreases. To sleep well at night, children (and adults) need to raise their temperature with exercise during the day. Schedule physical activity in the morning and afternoon to burn off excess energy and help your kids drift more easily into sleep.
- Have Consistent Mealtimes
Regular mealtimes are just as essential as physical activity for sleep. You might find that you’re all set to put the kids to bed when they suddenly tell you they’re hungry (and proceed to spend the next two hours eating). To prevent this problem, schedule three healthy meals plus two to three snacks throughout the day that you sit down together and enjoy as a family. Dinner should be two or three hours before bed, so choose your kids’ bedtime and work backward from there to schedule your meals.
- Avoid Stimulation Before Bed
As an adult, you know the effects of late-night stimulation on being able to get a good night’s sleep. Children are exactly the same. Make sure that your kids don’t have any stimulating foods or beverages in the evening or nighttime (chocolate, sugar, colorings, caffeine) and stick to quiet play like reading or drawing rather than screen time or stimulating play.
- Develop a Clear Bedtime Routine
Children, like adults, are creatures of habit. Once you put a clear bedtime routine in place, it becomes much easier to initiate the routine and lead your child to sleep without (as many) problems. After dinner, give your children time for some quiet (non-screen-based) play, then begin the bedtime routine 30-60 minutes before you want them to sleep. For many families, a bedtime routine could include any of the following:
- Bathe or shower
- Brush teeth
- Go to the bathroom
- Read a book or two in bed
- Goodnight kisses
- Turn out the light
Other families might prefer to bathe at a different time, add nighttime prayers, and/or include other rituals that are meaningful for them. The key is that the routine is consistent and helps your child wind down before bed.
- Make Your Child’s Bedroom Calm and Inviting
Depending on your family’s circumstances, your child might have their own room or share a room with siblings, parents, or grandparents. However, it’s important to keep in mind how the atmosphere in your child’s room affects their ability to sleep. At the minimum, your child’s room should be free from electronics, provide a clear passage to the bathroom or hallway, and offer warm, breathable bedding.
- Keep Your Child’s Room at the Right Temperature
Your child’s sleep cycle can be determined by how well they are sleeping at night. Are they waking up in the middle of the night a few times? Often, interrupted sleep can be caused by the temperature in the room. If the room is too hot or too cool, your child may be waking up a few times and not getting enough consistent sleep. Keeping the temperature in the room between 66-70 degrees will ensure a good night’s rest. Having their bedroom on the cooler side will help their body regulate its temperature and increase their body’s natural melatonin levels.
- Know Your Child’s Unique Sleep Needs
Sometimes, your child might not be sleeping on time because they’re not tired enough or because they’re actually overtired. While every child is different, it’s important to know how many hours of sleep your child needs for their age and how these hours should be divided to make sure they’re getting the appropriate amount of sleep. An overactive mind, itchy pajamas, a need for calm music, and other individual factors can also affect your child’s ability to drift off.
- Observe and Tweak the Timetable As Needed
As with any new routine, a change to your family’s sleeping habits will take at least a few days to establish. You might discover other factors or problems with your routine along the way. As you’re adjusting your approach to sleep, it’s important to be consistent, firm, and understanding. Changes are as hard for your child as they are for you, but the goal of a more consistent bedtime will benefit you all in the long term!
- See a Sleep Specialist If You’re Still Having Problems
Most parents’ downfall when it comes to getting their kids to bed is simply a lack of a consistent routine. However, there are times when you’re doing everything you should and your children (or child) are still struggling to sleep. If this is the case, a sleep specialist can help you discover what is stopping your child from sleeping effectively and offer tailored strategies to help your child and family succeed.
Carolyn Mitchell is a freelance writer and content strategist with a passion for home décor and maintenance. She can often be found re-painting and updating the furnishings in her home, and she is also a dedicated cat mom to two adorable kitties.