9 Useful Tips to Help Your Child Sleep
9 Useful tips to help your child sleep
Having a good night’s sleep is one of the most important things for your child’s physical and mental wellbeing. You should make sure your child is able to fall asleep easily, stays asleep throughout the night and wakes up feeling refreshed and ready for the day – however, this isn’t always the case. Whether you are sleep training toddlers or older children, read on to find out some useful tips from Dragons of Walton Street to help create a relaxing bedtime routine for your child.
1. Understand how much sleep your child needs?
The amount of sleep your child needs develops as they get older, so you should take this into account when setting bedtimes:
- Babies 4-11 months should sleep 9-12 hours a night with naps throughout the day
- Children of 3-5 years need about 11-13 hours of sleep a night
- Children of 6-13 years need about 9-11 hours of sleep a night
With this in mind, you should also set a regular wake-up time and keep this consistent within an hour or so every day, including weekends. Whilst it may feel nice allowing your child to sleep in a little later at the time, it can make it hard for their body to feel tired when it comes to the evening. Therefore, maintaining consistency with both bedtimes and waketimes will help regulate your child’s body clock and keep sleepless nights for mummy and daddy to a minimum!
2. Create a relaxing bedtime routine
Creating a wind-down routine is a good way to help children recognize it’s time for bed. For example:
- Give your child a warm soothing bath to help them relax
- Change them into cozy pyjamas
- Once in bed, dim down the bedroom lights
- Read a bedtime story together
Once you have your routine, be consistent and repeat the activities in the same order at the same time every night. This way, over time your child will gradually learn to recognize what part is coming next and prepare to sleep.
3. Don't rely on soothing methods
When sleep training babies, you should try to avoid holding, rocking or feeding your baby to sleep. If they wake up in the middle of the night to different surroundings, it is likely they will look for your help in order to get back to sleep, which can be a hard cycle to break.
From around 5 months old, most babies are able to fall asleep on their own. You should try to put your baby down to sleep when they are drowsy but awake, to help them learn to self soothe and fall back to sleep on their own. If they do wake in the middle of the night, try not to rush in immediately and start by just patting or shushing them to see if that does the trick before picking them up.
4. Limit screen time before bed
Research has shown that the light from electronic screens can impact how easily children get to sleep, as the glow interferes with the production of the melatonin, a hormone that helps us sleep. As melatonin levels peak, our bodies start to wind down and feel tired. However, even half an hour of screen time can disrupt this to keep your child up for an extra two hours!
Try to keep your child’s bedroom a screen-free zone, turning the television, smartphones, tablets and any other electronic devices off about an hour or so before bedtime.
5. Reduce activity and stress
Cortisol, otherwise known as the “stress hormone” also plays an important role in sleep and is also the hormone that wakes us up. At bedtime, we want melatonin levels to be high and cortisol levels to be low. Stress, light and noise can all play a part in increasing levels of cortisol, which will make it harder for your child to settle down and go to sleep.
Reduce activity when it comes to the evening, keep lights dim and create a quiet environment to avoid excess amounts of cortisol in your child’s system at night.
6. Create a sleep-inducing environment
Settling amongst comfortable bedding, soft sheets, closed curtains and a peaceful atmosphere can encourage your child to build a good relationship with sleep and help them differentiate between day and night. It is crucial you ensure your child is comfortable with the right amount of space to sleep as they grow, not too big or too small.
7. Protect your child from fears
It’s not uncommon for children to have a bedtime fear of the monster under the bed, or to be afraid of the dark - especially when they first start to sleep in their own room. There are many ways you can help your child feel safe, from getting them a special toy who will keep monsters at bay, reading them a bedtime story or by keeping a comforting nightlight or lamp on in their room so they aren’t left alone in complete darkness. Be patient, understanding and accommodating to help your child overcome their fears naturally with time.
8. Keep the temperature cool
Your child’s sleep cycle is also sensitive to temperature. Whilst melatonin levels help regulate the drop of internal body temperature needed to sleep, you can help regulate the external temperature. Try not to cover your child with too many layers - typical room temperature or cooler is best to promote a deep sleep.
9. Don't be afraid to get help
If you find your child continues to struggle falling asleep, staying asleep throughout the night, or experiences regular night terrors, it may be that they are suffering from a sleep disorder. Contact your GP and voice your concerns to ensure your child gets the support they need.