6 Ways to Get Your Kids to Sleep Well
During this past holiday we had plenty of late nights and a lack of strict bedtimes. Heading back to work and school has been a challenge, and our children have not readjusted to their sleep schedules. Everyone has been going to bed late and are sluggish in the mornings, a common complaint on the school playground at drop-off. I felt reassured we weren’t the only family struggling to get back into a routine. Here we are in mid-January and still not getting a good sleep. Today, after a long weekend, we were one of many families late to school and among the parents saying how they couldn’t get their kids out of bed this morning. So, I came straight home and sat down to revise our bedtime routine to make sure our kids sleep better. I thought I would share 6 Ways to Get Your Kids to Sleep Well with all of you!
Providing children with a healthy dinner rich in nutrients is two parts ideal; (1) to provide our growing kids with proper sustenance, and (2) full tummies before bed ensures they sleep longer into the early hours of the morning.
The Mayo Clinic says no screen time one hour before bed and that too much exposure can cause insufficient sleep. Studies have shown lights omitted by our devices give our bodies the illusion that it is daytime, instead of night, and can contribute to poor sleep quality if we watch them too close to bed.
Have a routine. Keep notes on successes and failures, and adjust when you see an unhelpful pattern. Within that routine framework you can make small adjustments that best fit your child. Maybe before reading you play a short game of Uno, or sing a song, instead of talking about their day. This allows children’s internal clock to know what to expect, and effectively cues that we are going into our night time mode. A routine might look as follows:
6pm: Last cup of milk (sometimes warmed)
6:15pm: Bath time
6:45pm: Brush teeth
7pm: Read a book
7:30pm: Lights out and have a light chat about their day. This is a nice time to let them get anything off their chest.
As many can attest, sleeping in a hot room is disruptive. Sleep Specialist and Neurologist, Dr. Christopher Winter wrote a Huffington Post article on choosing the best temperature for sleep and notes that most studies agree 60-67 degrees Fahrenheit is the best range for sleeping. Cooler body temperatures contribute to deeper, longer sleeps, and allow the body to awake feeling rested.
Calming techniques help guide our bodies into a state of relaxation and make it easier to slip into sleep. Relaxation activities improve sleep and reduce stress hormones cortisol and adrenaline by slowing your heart rate. Calming techniques for children include:
- Breathing exercises
- Gentle stretching
- Back scratching
Another way to bring quiet and calm to your children’s sleep space is a noise machine. If your child is easily disturbed by sound, this is a nice way to keep the noise in their room consistent and drown out anything disruptive within the house, without making you feel like you need to tiptoe around.
Night Light vs. Darkness
Being afraid of the dark isn’t unusual and if that fear is keeping your child awake, it’s better to address it so they feel secure and comfortable falling asleep. For optimal sleep, humans should be in darkness to support melatonin production, which we naturally begin to produce around bedtime. Begin dimming lights as you approach bedtime and create softer, cozier spaces. This gives children's’ bodies the visual cues that it is also time for bed. NYTimes article, To Help Children Sleep, Go Dark, notes that low nightlights are acceptable, but to avoid anything that shines directly into the child’s face.
As for the parents, I know that bedtime can be hard. I’ve thought a lot about why this is the case, and I’ve come to the conclusion that bedtime is like the end of the race, it is that last 100m and time to pick up the pace. Like an actual race, you want to finish strong. After eight years, I have figured out how much effort I need to preserve to make it through bedtime to finish with happy, sleeping kids. I want to give my children the best start to their day and that begins with sleeping well.