Sleep is important—, especially for children. But, while sleep is essential to your child’s physical and mental wellbeing, getting your kid to bed—and keeping them there—is often easier said than done.
Whether your child is a baby, a toddler or school-aged, bedtime can be a struggle, and when times get tough, the whole family can become affected.
There’s an endless amount of sleep books, props, gadgets, and gizmos out there designed to help your kid sleep better, but without focusing on the fundamentals, they’re unlikely to prove successful.
Every child is different so there are no hard and fast rules for bedtime. But, there are approaches that will help getting your kids to bed easier.
Here we explore the importance of sleep in childhood as well as practical tips that will help you transform your nocturnal nightmare into a sweet, sweet dream.
Why children need plenty of sleep
Before we look at how to get your child to sleep without fuss (or with minimal fuss, at least), let’s consider why sleep in childhood is so important—this will motivate your efforts when it comes to bedtime.
Without further ado, here are the key reasons your children need regular quality sleep:
Regular sleep promotes growth as growth hormones are typically released during slumber.
Sleep-deprived children often have trouble concentrating or regulating their emotions.
Studies show that children with sleep disorders or those that suffer from sleep deprivation are more prone to weight gain.
Quality sleep helps children to fight off germs while reducing the risk of injury, and boosts their capacity to learn.
Ways to make your child’s bedtime a success
Now that you know how vital regular sleep is to your child’s wellbeing, we’re going to look at the practical measures you can take to help your little one hit the sack smoothly—and stay there.
Make sleep a household priority
When it comes to your child’s bedtime, success will depend on consistency and cooperation.
By getting the whole family to buy-in to your little ones’ bedtime, setting consistent sleep and wake up times while all playing a role in making the ritual a fun, you’ll start to see results sooner than you think.
Important: During bedtime, it’s important that you try to leave the room before your little one nods off as this will help them self-settle.
Start off by sitting on the end of the bed, moving a little more towards the door each night until you’re able to say ‘goodnight’ and leave with confidence. This will take a little trial and error, but it’s vital to bedtime success—you can do it!
Set your bedtime routine
Expanding on the last point: if you want to get your child (or children) to bed without fuss, routine is everything.
While every child is different, by starting the bedtime routine at around the same time every night while following a format that works best, your little one will know what to expect and respond positively.
The bath, book, and bed routine is a tried and tested format that will allow you to foster healthy sleep habits while enjoying a little quality time with your child before the lights go out.
Do it your way, but remember: humans respond well to routines, so whatever you do, make it consistent.
Keep the room cool
Our sleep patterns, to some extent, are dictated by temperature. That said, when you’re tackling the bedtime routine, make sure your child’s room isn’t too warm, isn’t too cold—but as referenced in ‘Goldilocks and The Three Bears’—just right.
The optimum temperature for sleep is between 60 and 67 degrees Fahrenheit. Use this as a guide to help set the ideal temperature for your child’s room and after they’ve dropped off to sleep, check in to make sure it’s not too hot or cold, making slight adjustments (blankets or windows) as required.
These temperature-based initiatives are likely to help you and your children sleep better on a consistent basis.
Create the right environment
In addition to setting the right temperature, there are other things you can do to create a happy, comfortable bedtime environment for your child.
Here are some tips that will help you tailor your children’s bedroom to their needs:
Make the right bed choice for your children and their situation. Do they share with their siblings? Are they toddlers or are they about to start school? These factors count when making the right bed choice for your kid, so take your time and do your research.
If your child is a little afraid of the dark, invest in a planetarium or a nightlight, letting them pick one that they like the most.
If your child has a comforter, let them take it with them to bed. This could be a teddy bear, a small toy or a blanket. Whatever it is, let your little one doze off with it as it will help them feel safe and secure.
Do what you can to keep the noise level low around your child’s bedroom. For instance, if you live on a busy street and it’s summer, plug in a small, quiet fan to keep your kid cool in the night.
Tailored bedtime tips according to age
To supplement our essential child’s bedtime advice, here are some quick tips according to age.
6 -18 months
Cultivate regular daytime and nighttime sleep schedules.
Provide a soft, safe comforter.
Encourage your child to fall asleep independently by laying them in their cot or crib.
18 months – 3 years old
Establish a set start time for the bedtime routine.
Make sure your child’s bedroom is set out the same way every night.
Give your child advance notice that it’s bedtime, allowing them to watch you apply toothpaste to the toothbrush, run the bath or by showing them their comforter.
3 – 6 years old
Make sure your routine is relaxed, fun, and includes stories or bathtime toys that your child will engage with the most.
Allow your little one to be an active participant in the routine. Brush your teeth with them, let them help you set up the bath (under strict supervision), and encourage them to dress themselves or arrange their bed for sleep time.
Refrain from letting them look at a screen or watch TV at least 20 minutes before you start the bedtime routine.
Avoid caffeine or sugar before bedtime.
Educate your child on the importance of healthy sleeping habits in a fun, insightful way.
Remove screens, computers or television sets from the bedroom.
“‘O sleep, O gentle sleep,’ I thought gratefully, ‘Nature’s soft nurse.'”—Elizabeth Kenny
We know that your child’s bedtime can be tricky and there’s no one size fits all solution for a fuss-free sleep routine, but by using these tips to guide you, we’re confident that you’ll see a positive change in no time.