Do you have trouble getting your child to sleep at night? You’re not alone, so we’ve rounded up tips from experts at the US National Sleep Foundation and the UK Sleep Council to give you a helping hand. Here are our top 10 tips to help your child to establish healthy sleep habits.
1. Create a relaxing bedtime ritual
A regular bedtime ritual will help your child to prepare mentally and physically for sleep. Repeat the same stages in the same order every night so your child knows what to expect. For example, quiet play time, bath time, tooth-brushing and pyjamas, and finally a story in bed. Then it’s time for hugs and kisses, good night, and lights out.
2. Maintain a consistent sleep schedule
Be consistent about where and when your child goes to sleep. Going to bed in the same place at the same time, even at weekends, can help your child to feel secure and relaxed. If your schedule has slipped, re-establish your bedtime ritual and gradually shift the start point towards your ideal time.
3. Keep your child’s bedroom cool, quiet and dark
Aim for a temperature between 16 and 20ºC and make sure the room is well aired. Blackout blinds can be particularly helpful in the summer. A dark room will help your child get to sleep at night and give you a better chance of a lie-in in the morning! Check out these additional recommendations if your child has special needs.
4. Say no to TVs, computers and smartphones
Turn all screens off at least an hour before bedtime. The light from TVs, computers and phones interferes with the body’s production of melatonin, a hormone that tells us it’s time to sleep. Introducing an hour of non-screen time before bed should help everyone to wind down and transition into sleep mode.
5. Be calm about bad dreams
Nightmares and night terrors typically peak during the preschool years. If your child wakes up from a nightmare, reassure them that it was a dream and help them to settle back down to sleep. Night terrors are a little more complicated – there’s useful advice on dealing with them here.
6. Give them something to cuddle
A security blanket or a stuffed animal can help a child feel safe when they’re alone in a dark bedroom. Some children also like to sleep with a parent or caregiver’s t-shirt because the familiar smell is comforting.
6. Choose the right bed
It’s important that growing bones and muscles are properly supported. If your child has gone through a growth spurt, you may need to upgrade their bed and mattress. Let your child help to choose their new bed and they might be more enthusiastic about sleeping in it!
7. Create a cosy nest for sleeping
Clean sheets, a well-aired duvet and comfy pillows make bed a nicer place to be. But don’t let your children bounce on the bed. It’s bad for the mattress and it creates the idea that beds are for playtime, not sleeping…
9. Be smart about snacks
A bedtime snack can help children sleep through the night, but some treats can have them bouncing off the walls long after lights out. Keep your kids away from sugary treats and caffeinated drinks like tea and cola if you want bedtime to go smoothly. Yoghurt, a banana smoothie, porridge or a glass of milk are all good choices for a quiet night.
10. Introduce changes gradually
It can take up to two weeks for a new behaviour to become a habit. If you’re making changes, be consistent, be patient and take it slowly. For example, if you want your child to go to bed earlier, the Sleep Council suggests moving their bedtime forward by just 5 to 15 minutes per week.
Finally, remember your child is an individual – what works for one child might not work for another. But calm, consistency and comfort should go a long way.
What are your top tips? We’d love to hear how you help your children get a good night’s sleep.