- Spend Quality Time Together
Sometimes a child is unsettled when it comes to bedtime because they want more attention from their parents. Moms and dads generally work during the day and the child knows that when evening comes, it’s his chance to get the attention he craves.
Alternatively, a child with a stay-at-home parent may become dependent on the attention he receives all day long and continue with attention seeking behavior. In both cases, spending just few minutes of quality time in the evening can help relieve the need for attention.
Ask questions about their day, read them a story and make them the focus of your attention. Babies also need quality time and can benefit from about 5 to 10 minutes of cuddling. Make sure that you make eye contact and talk or sing to them soothingly.
- Routine Is Key
A bedtime routine that is predictable is crucial for children to feel secure. Kids (and adults) should go to sleep at around the same time every night and wake up at the same time every morning – give or take 30 to 60 minutes. This includes weekends and staying up or waking late on those days should be discouraged. Just one night or morning of breaking the routine can disturb the natural circadian rhythm and it can take days if not longer to re-establish the regular routine.
Younger children require more sleep (10 to 12 hours a night) and need to go to bed earlier – no later than 9pm. The earlier your kids need to get up in the morning, the earlier they need to go to bed. This will ensure that they are getting enough rest and you will have less trouble getting them to bed and waking them in the morning.
- Power Off
Television and electronic devices before bedtime stimulate the brain and are going to make it more difficult for your kids to fall asleep because it disrupts melatonin and serotonin production which are critical for sleep. Screens should be turned off at least 1 to 2 hours before bed to allow the brain to gear down and get ready to go to sleep.
Restricting screen time during the day can also be helpful. Kids who aren’t constantly watching a screen will burn off energy through physical activity which will make them tired when it comes to bedtime. Remember that what takes place during the day will affect what happens at night.
Sleep technologies are not a proven diagnostic tool for sleep disorders although they can be helpful in tracking sleep patterns to identify whether a visit to a sleep specialist may be worthwhile. Wearable devices (like FitBit) that monitor sleep activity can be effective at helping kids know when it is bedtime and to screen for sleep issues.
- Stay Positive
Kids can’t tell the time and don’t know when it is bedtime. A color coded clock that tells them when it is bedtime and when it is time to wake-up can be a positive tool. You can combine this technology with an old fashioned reward system – stars for when they get it right and a reward when they have collected the right amount of stars.
It can become very frustrating for parents to get their kids to go to bed and it isn’t unusual to struggle for hours before a child finally nods off. Be patient – no matter how many times you have to put your child back to bed. Staying positive will prevent your child from associating punishment or negativity with bedtime and will also help them with going to bed on their own in the future.
- Practice Good Sleep Habits
Emphasize that the bedroom is for sleeping and resting. Pack toys and any other distractions away before bedtime. Ideally, these should be stored in another area of the home. Associating the bedroom with sleep will make it easier to feel calm and relaxed there. The more you let your child practice relaxing and sleeping in the bedroom, the sooner the brain will associate the space with sleep. Find the best pocket sprung mattresses that will help your child get a good night’s rest.