Sleep time is blessed, both for kids and parents, but not every kid may want to sleep on schedule. For some kids it may seem like they might miss out on something fun, so they fight it. Others may fear the dark and have a hard time falling asleep. Yet others may be too tired to realize it and their fatigue may prevent them from falling asleep.
But whatever the reason, it’s important that kids learn to sleep on time. A good sleep schedule will bring up a good start to the day and make it easier for everyone around the house as well.
Why do kids have trouble falling asleep?
Sometimes kids can’t sleep for anxiety reasons while other times it may be a medical reason. For some kids the main cause of worry may be the sleep itself. They start worrying about sleep hours even before bedtime or they wake up in the middle of the night and worry about not being able to fall back to sleep again, and so they don’t.
Before you force your kids to fall asleep it may make sense to find out what’s keeping them awake. For instance, if there are any medical issues at hand, address these first. You may just find that your kid is unable to sleep because they suffer from:
- Obstructive sleep apnea
- Seasonal allergies
- Stuffiness from cold
- Deviated septum
You can get proper help for these and other similar medical conditions. If the reason is not medical related, then take some time out to figure out what’s making it so hard for your kid to fall asleep.
Some other reasons to stay awake
Occasionally, kids may not be able to sleep because of stress and anxiety. Yes, it may sound strange to think that kids have such high stress levels so as to keep them awake, but it’s true. It can happen. Here are some other common reasons why kids find it difficult to sleep on time.
- Separation anxiety is a common reason for disrupted or delayed sleep. Most typical in babies, separation anxiety may demand that you soothe and calm your baby. You may comfort them, but try not to make it too rewarding by picking them up.
- No bedtime routine can also cause distress before sleep time. When a child doesn’t have a set of certain steps to follow before sleep time they may find it difficult to know that it’s time to sleep. It is important to formulate this bedtime routine that helps them wind down and relax instead of stimulating them.
- Screens in the bedroom are a big distraction. To let your child know that it’s time to sleep, keep such distractions out of their bedroom. It’s important to power down before bedtime and even big kids need a routine to wind down for bed.
- Changes in life can also play a role in your kid’s sleeping routine. Such as moving or a family change; death, divorce, adoption, etc.
How to get your kids to fall asleep fast
Here are some ways that can help your kids wind down before bedtime. Most are customizable and can be tweaked based on your child’s age.
Make a set routine
Having a bedtime routine in place is perhaps the most important way to ensure that your child knows when it’s time to sleep. You can change this routine up as your child grows, but start early as babies who have a bedtime routine will transition easier into their routine as they turn to toddlers and beyond.
Babies start to understand actions way before words. Establishing regular bedtime habits helps them learn through actions that it’s now time to go to sleep. Preparing a baby for bedtime need not be elaborate. If anything, it’s best to make this routine as simple as possible. This makes it easier to implement it anywhere, anytime.
Newborns don’t really follow a regular routine or sleep schedule. In the initial 5 or 6 weeks of their life, babies sleep so often that getting them on a schedule doesn’t make much sense. At this point, focus on getting them to sleep enough rather than set a schedule.
- Start around 5 to 6 weeks old when your baby shows more of a daily pattern of eating, sleeping, and playing. An example bedtime routine may follow the given steps:
- One hour before sleep bathe your baby, change their diaper, and rub on some lotion.
- Half an hour before sleep give them an infant massage, and put on their jammies and swaddle. You can also turn on an ambient noise and dim the lights.
- 15 minutes before sleep make sure to burp the baby, if needed, then gently rock or cuddle.
- At 5 minutes before sleep, your baby should be almost half asleep. Put them in the crib as they doze off.
Toddlers who have been following a bedtime routine will not protest to having a set routine now. For others who have never had a bedtime routine before now, is as good a time to start as any.
- Bath time is a soothing way to start off your toddler’s bedtime routine. However, if you notice that taking a bath makes your toddler too excited, then it’s better to leave this for the morning. Instead, wash his face and hands.
- Brushing teeth should always be an integral part of any bedtime routine for toddlers. It’s important to start this habit early so that as your toddler grows up, they know how to take care of their teeth properly.
- Changing for bedtime involves changing into a diaper, using the toilet if they’re already potty trained, and then changing into their pajamas. You can encourage changing their clothes by giving them a choice of what pajamas they would like to wear at bedtime.
- Playing a quiet game or reading before getting ready for bed is a nice way of spending some time with your toddler before putting them to sleep. You can tailor this short activity-time based on their preferences. For instance, older toddlers may enjoy doing some small puzzle or play a card game while younger ones may just be entertained by peekaboo. Just don’t make this activity too stimulating or they will have too much fun to sleep on time.
- Dim the lights as your toddler gets ready for bed.
- Say goodnight. Your little one may want to go around the room saying goodnight to their favorite toys which is alright. But don’t indulge them. Let them say goodnight to two or three toys and nothing more.
For older kids
School-age going kids become more independent in handling their tasks of a bedtime routine if they are used to following one. Daily tasks of showering, changing into their pajamas, and brushing their teeth are usually given by this age.
- Power down devices at least 2 hours before bedtime. Electronics should definitely be shut off before the routine starts. Make the bedroom a screen-free zone or at least make sure that all screens are completely turned off. Phones are best left out of the bedroom at night.
- Schedule time to bond where you can talk about the good and bad aspects of your kid’s day. This gives your kid the perfect chance to decompress or confide in a parent.
- Reading together is a great way to end the day if your kid likes to do so. If not, then maybe there is something else that your kid would like to share with you like a sport they’re interested in. Be willing to listen.
Some general guidelines to encourage sleeping on time
Apart from following the daily bedtime routine, it is also important to take other factors into consideration. For instance, the child’s sleep cycle isn’t solely dependent on the time they sleep or how much light they have in their room. It is also equally sensitive to temperature.
It’s important to keep the room comfortably cool where your child will sleep. For younger children and babies, don’t bundle them up too much, or set the heat to high.
And just as it’s important to provide them a conducive sleep environment, it’s as important to eliminate unhealthy sleep association. For babies, this may mean rocking them to sleep. If your baby is only used to sleeping by being rocked, then there is no way you can skimp on this.
Adequate sleep is essential at every age for your growing child. If you start getting your child into a bedtime routine earlier, then you will have little to worry about their sleep hours. But if not, then you may well be among those parents for whom extra bedtime stories, a special night light, lavender scented lotion, and anything else in between doesn’t work.
To prevent being that parent, put limits on what you let your child do at bedtime. Don’t let them stall for time and make sure that the lights are out at the appropriate hour. When your child goes to sleep happy and on time, you’ll see that reflected in your day as well.