10 Tips for Helping Your Child Get to Sleep
- Skip the Caffeine – While it may seem obvious on the surface, caffeine can actually be lurking in some places you wouldn’t necessarily suspect. Be sure that any foods or drinks that you’re giving your children, especially in the hours leading up to bedtime, are free from stimulants of any kind that can make it difficult for them to relax.
- Keep After-Dinner Activities Low-Key – Exciting, high-energy activities right before bed make it difficult for kids to wind down enough to sleep. Rather than encouraging lots of active play to “wear kids out” before bed, consider more relaxing activities like reading or watching a bit of educational television.
- Establish a Bedtime Routine – Kids thrive on structured routines, even when they’re in the process of rebelling against them. Establishing a set bedtime routine that includes the same steps and preparations as every night before it will help your child understand that it’s time to relax and start thinking about getting to bed.
- Focus on Relaxing, Rather Than Sleeping – Just as trying to force sleep will only make an adult more anxious and have more difficulty dropping off, children may find sleep even more elusive when they’re pressured to do so. Rather than focusing on the physical act of sleeping, encourage quiet time in the bed to relax and reflect, which will help your child create his own soothing environment that’s conducive to sleep.
- Give Her Tools to Manage Anxiety – For some children, fears and anxieties make sleeping difficult. If your youngster has a fear of the dark, the proverbial monster in the closet or the creature under the bed, equip her with the “tools” she needs to manage that anxiety. A flashlight for shining into spooky shadows, a spray bottle filled with “monster spray” and a comfort object like a plush toy can be just what she needs to get through the night confidently.
- Bedtime isn’t a Punishment – Threatening children with an early bedtime as punishment only reinforces the idea that bedtime is something bad to be avoided at all costs. Sending children to their rooms for time out or similar disciplinary tactics may be effective, but a forced early bedtime could ultimately be counterproductive.
- Promote Self-Soothing – Kids need to learn how to soothe themselves, especially if they’re just transitioning out of a family bed or a crib in the master bedroom. Help your child learn the best ways to self soothe by gently walking a wandering child in search of comfort back to his bed and reminding him that he has to sleep in his own bed.
- Stay Out of Her Bed – Crawling in the bed with your child to provide an extra measure of security in order to facilitate sleep may help in the short term, but it can also establish a pattern of need that delays her ability to fall asleep on her own and self soothe. Resisting the urge can be difficult, but it’s also necessary.
- Make the Bedroom a “TV-Free” Zone – Many modern children have their own televisions in their bedrooms. If you insist on placing a television in your child’s room, it’s important that you stress “TV-Free” bedtime. The action and stimulation that television offers will only keep him awake longer, further delaying the onset of sleep and leaving him exhausted in the morning.
- White Noise and Nature Sounds – Children that struggle to sleep due to sound sensitivities may benefit from a white noise or nature sounds machine, which will drown out the ambient noise of your home and can be very relaxing. With continued use, your child may come to associate those sounds with sleep, helping him to drop off easier and earlier.
While most parents are well aware of the inaccuracies contained in the phrase “sleep like a baby,” following these simple tricks may very well be just enough to help your child get the sort of sleep the statement implies. If you’ve tried everything to no avail, however, and your child is showing visible signs of exhaustion or sleep deprivation, there’s a slight chance he could be suffering from a sleep disorder or a related problem. Should all of your efforts come to naught in regard to helping your youngster get the rest he needs, it may be time to consult his pediatrician or seek the advice of another qualified medical professional.