Do your kids refuse to go to sleep? Do you spend hours trying to get them to settle? Many parents can end up tearing their hair out when it comes to getting their kids to adhere to bedtime. Those precious hours between 8pm and midnight are supposed to be adult time – it’s your tiny pocket of freedom (although in many cases, even this free time is spent doing household chores) – and yet the kids are taking it away from you. Fortunately, there is a way to win the bedtime battle. Here’s a brief guide to getting your kids to go to sleep when they ought to.
Conquering The Bedtime Battle With Your Kids
Negotiating the newborn phase
The bedtime battle starts from birth. When trying to get a newborn to sleep at first, you may find it difficult to encourage a solid sleep – in fact it should be a concern if a newborn doesn’t wake up in the night. Feeding them before going to bed can help to encourage a longer sleep – the act of nursing provides a sense of comfort and security that lulls them asleep. Many babies also need to be swaddled to help them sleep. This involves wrapping them tightly with a blanket or using a sleep suit, giving them the same snug feeling as being in the womb.
In fact, simulating the environment of the womb has been found to help lots of newborns to sleep. This could include playing white noise, which is thought to sound like the buzzing sound in the human body, as well as controlling the temperature so that is relatively warm.
Limiting the distance from your bed to the cot can also make a big difference – if your baby falls asleep in your arms and you then have to carry them across the room, they’re more likely to wake up en route than simply placing your little one in a cot beside your bed. It could also be worth getting blankets ready before nursing your baby to sleep so that you don’t have to disturb your baby after they’ve fallen asleep by then wrapping them up. In fact, make sure that every task is done before nursing them so that there’s no chance of waking them up.
Eventually things get easier and they should start sleeping through the night. By six months, you should no longer have to wind your baby and you may even be able to start bringing in controlled crying (this doesn’t mean letting your child cry out, but simply waiting a few minutes before picking them up, helping to encourage them to settle themselves).
Setting a bedtime routine and ritual
You can start setting a routine early. By having a specific time each night, your child will start to realise that this is bedtime. You can then start to develop a routine and ritual that makes them realise that it’s time to prepare for bed – this should include basic tasks such as brushing teeth, getting dressed for bed and going to the toilet as well as rituals of your own such as reading a book or having cuddles.
The trick is to stay consistent. A break away from the routine could make your child think that its okay for them to also deviate from the ritual by refusing to go to bed. By keeping to the same rituals each night in the same order, you child will learn that’s there no room for deviation.
Make sure that you’re not rushing the bedtime routine – it should last between thirty minutes and an hour. When reading a story to them, don’t rush the story, as much as you may want them to fall asleep. Ten minutes is usually a sensible length of time for reading to kids.
Limiting screen time
Bright screens can trick our brains into thinking it’s still daytime. This delays the production of the sleep hormone, melatonin, so that we find it harder to get to sleep. If possible, try to limit contact with TV screens and tablets an hour before bed. Ideally, your child shouldn’t have any screens in their room – letting them watch a film in bed as they go to sleep should be a big no no.
Saying no to sugar
You should also limit sugar before bedtime. As we all know, sugar makes kids hyperactive, which is definitely not what you want just before bed time. Limit soft drinks and sweets and stick to water, milk and savoury snacks. Food such as cereal and oatmeal may be considered breakfast foods for many but actually they can be perfect sleep-inducing foods for the evening.
Using the right bedding
Bedding can also sometimes make a difference. Some children find it easier to sleep with heavier blankets as they provide a greater feeling of being comforted by someone else. You should research online to find the best weighted blanket. You may also want to consider different materials and fillings. Some kids find it impossible to sleep with feather pillows, whilst some may prefer cooler and softer sheet and duvet materials such as silk. To your child about their bed and how comfortable they think it is.
Keeping your kids active during the day
Physical activity throughout the day could also help your kids to sleep. Kids that haven’t had a chance to expend their energy throughout the day are less likely to want to go to bed at night as they may still be feeling energised. Try to encourage your kids to be active by urging them to play active games and take up sports. Buying garden toys, going to the park or going swimming could all be great forms of exercise for children. Physical activity can also work with young kids – letting infants crawl or walk around rather than carrying them or using a stroller can help to knacker them out so that they fall asleep more easily in the evening.