Fostering healthy sleeping habits in children
Updated: Sep 1, 2021
Fostering healthy sleeping habits is a very important part of early childhood development. As a mom of 2 boys, getting my kids to develop good sleeping habits has been quite an interesting journey.
I admit I still do have the middle of the night waking and coming to my room from my youngest and sometimes my oldest, but for the most part, I have them both on a solid routine that works well for us.
Here are some ideas and tips that I have used that may be of help to you as well to start the process early. This will no doubt reduce the hassle later on trying to fix wrong sleeping habits.
It will take a little time and much-needed effort on your part as a parent to implement good sleeping habits especially if it has already started. My motto is to be persistent in the process.
However, after having these steps in place, the journey will become less of a hassle and much easier to manage.
Have you also found any ideas that you could share? Please feel free to add to my list, or ask your questions or concerns in our FORUM section. I would be happy to help you!
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“Remember it will take a little time and much needed effort to build healthy sleeping habits!”
1. MINIMIZE BEFORE BEDTIME ACTIVITIES
At least 1 to 2 hours before bedtime try to minimize highly engaging activities, for example, video games, computer games, action-packed cartoons, or television shows.
This I believe enables your child to get settled in, and also to be ready for bed. I do believe that the less activity they have before bedtime, the fewer nighttime awakenings that will occur.
Sometimes we may also think that getting them really tired with activities right before bedtime will help them to fall asleep quicker but believe me when I say it’s not really the case.
I may have an agitated child who is having a harder time falling asleep. So I think slowing down right before bed is actually much better based on my observation.
2. START BEDTIME ROUTINE AN HOUR PRIOR TO BEDTIME
My kids have a tendency to ask for everything, as soon as you declare it's bedtime. They need more water, potty breaks, another book, more tv time, etc. It never ends.
Here is the trick, start bedtime an hour earlier to get this phase started and still not affect the actual sleep time. For example, I would like my kids to be asleep by 8 pm, and therefore bedtime prepping may start at around 7 pm.
They can exhaust every excuse until it's actual sleep time and you can still have them on target for bed. Shh, that’s a secret not to share with them until they have their own kids.
3. HAVE A SET BEDTIME THAT DOES NOT CHANGE
Have a set bedtime that does not change, even on the weekends, summers, or holidays. Try not to change it unless there was an emergency or you were out late vising family, eating out, etc.
What I found was that it helped to get them on schedule when there is routine, whether they were at school during the week or at home on the weekends. Then they actually fall asleep at that same time every day regardless of whether or not I let them stay up late.
They have gotten familiar with a set bedtime routine. I rarely have a late sleeper past bedtime unless they took a late nap after 2 pm. That brings me to my next point.
4. TRY NOT TO ENCOURAGE SLEEPING AFTER A CERTAIN TIME
You are a better expert at your child's sleeping pattern, therefore I do not encourage any sleeping after a certain time. The time selected is based on your observation.
If your child gets a nap after 2 pm for example, does he or she fall asleep right away at bedtime, or is there a struggle to get them to sleep?
If there is a struggle, then I would not recommend any sleep after your observed time. With my kids, I have implemented a no sleep after 2 pm rule. I find that bedtime is less of a hassle and they will fall right asleep on schedule.
If they did have a nap after my cut-off time, then I find that there is a struggle to fall asleep, and what eventually happens is that I may have a tired sleeper or late riser the next morning. If your child is attending school, then this can affect the learning process for the day as well.
5. DO BATHTIME RIGHT BEFORE BED
This may or may not work for you, but I do try to give baths before bedtime every day if I can.
Sometimes after a long day of playing around, a nice warm bubble bath or shower helps tremendously to get them settled in bed. I also like to use lavender-based shower gels for kids etc. to help them to calm down right at bedtime.
My all-time favorite shower gel to use with my kids when they were younger is Johnsons and Johnson Night-Time bath.
Also now that they are older, I love The Honest Company Truly Calming Lavender Bubble Bath.
6. MAKE SURE ALL DISTRACTIONS ARE REMOVED FROM THE BEDROOM
I know that everybody’s living arrangement and situation differs, but I do find that rooms with fewer toys and entertainment systems or rooms with absolutely no toys at all are by far better than a room full of toys.
Expect a lot of hassle trying to get kids to go to bed when all their toys are around or can be easily accessed. My advice in whatever situation you find yourself in is to keep toys away as best as you can.
Some may have dedicated toy rooms specifically for toys, while the bedroom is for sleeping only. Others have toys in bins that they can quickly remove at bedtime. Whatever works best in your situation, try to implement it as much as you can to prevent distraction.
7. READ A BOOK OR PLAY BEDTIME MUSIC
I do have a bedtime routine that I do that the kids actually look forward to and get them excited for bedtime. It is a great time, in my opinion, to read books, songs or play music with your kids.
This is the trick in my opinion. It helps them to get settled a lot quicker, removes most of the pre-bedtime tantrums, and actually quiets them down just enough to actually fall asleep while listening to a story or song.
I am definitely not the greatest of singers, however, when I do sing for my kids, I have discovered that they actually fall asleep so much faster. Try and see if it will work for you as well.
8. KEEP A NIGHT LIGHT OR HAVE GLOW IN THE DARK STICKERS
Kids are sometimes afraid of the dark and maybe more resistant to falling asleep if they do not feel safe. Therefore you can provide a night light if necessary to help them to transition to sleep a lot quicker.
We have the Intertek night lights that can be found at Home Depot or Walmart, but these seem to be similar to what we currently have. We also use them around our house for night wakings and walking to our room.
Also, another alternative is to get a glow-in-the-dark string of beads, stars, or other stickers and place them on the roof or the wall to kind of give them a little light during the night. It also helps kids to stay longer in bed if they are being resistant.
9. RESISTANCE TO BEDTIME ROUTINE
You will have resistance to bedtime routine especially in the 3 to 5 age group, and starting out with the process. Be consistent and do not give up.
After a period of consistent routine, your kids will just get use to it and fall right in with the program. Do not worry if you have a few road bumps in the beginning. The key is persistence!
10. NIGHT WAKINGS
You may have the occasional night wakings which I may have with both of my kids. My recommendation is to comfort them and help them to transition right back to bed. Most times they will usually fall asleep right away unless it's closer to their time to wake up.
It can happen especially in the toddler age group. My oldest rarely comes to our room now but prior to that, we had the same issues with him. As they grow older, they are less likely to have frequent night wakings.
Overall I do hope that these tips and tricks will help you to screen and change certain behaviors that are unpleasant by implementing new ways to remove such behaviors from occurring in the future.
Remember as always that you should still consult with your child's Pediatrician before implementing any new strategies.
Did you find the strategies listed in this article helpful? What were some of your favorite tips? How have they worked for you? Leave a comment below, I’d love to know what you think.
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