Sleep. It’s a f*cking touchy topic for parents.
How much are they getting? How much are you getting? Are they – dare we ask – sleeping through the night? (The audacity).
Amongst the many things we have to teach our kids, how to sleep is one of them. Rest is essential for your little one’s development. But it’s also crucial for your health and wellbeing too, mama. Meaning everyone can benefit from your kid sleeping well at night.
So, here are five tips to help your child get a better nights’ sleep.
Get them solid naps during the day
A good nights’ sleep starts in the daytime. Children need a certain amount of sleep over a 24-hour period – infants require about 12-16 hours, and toddlers around 11-14 hours. This is usually spread across day and night sleep until anywhere from 3 years to age 5 – every kid is different, and some drop their naps earlier than others.
Get them out in the daylight
Again, what you do during the day can affect the night. This includes getting your child enough daylight. We’ll explain…
Light – particularly daylight – helps us to regulate our circadian rhythm (the thing that tells us that night time equals sleep time) and to produce melatonin, a sleep-promoting hormone. When it comes to our little ones in particular, a 2004 study showed that babies who were exposed to more light, especially in the afternoon, slept better at night.
Long story short: a little safe (key word, there) daylight exposure each day might help your bébé rest up at night.
Curate a kicka*s sleep environment
Your kid’s environment can help set the stage for sleep.
Three key ingredients make up a good sleep space:
- Light: The darker the room, the less opportunity for stimulation for your kid. You might try blackout curtains or even sticking cardboard over your windows.
- Noise: Kids can sleep with some noise, but changes to the levels of noise or even sudden loud noises can wake them up. Using white noise (either a machine or an app) can be soothing and help block out sudden noises.
- Temperature: Like us, kids can sleep poorly if they’re too hot or too cold. The ideal temperature for a child’s room is between 68° – 72°F (20° – 22.2°C). It’s important to know that it’s unsafe to sleep a kid in a space that’s too hot – this can lead to overheating, which has been associated with SIDS. A thermometer will help you keep track, and a heater or air conditioning can help regulate the temperature.
When considering temperature, you should also factor in the clothing your child is wearing. Dress your kid as you would dress yourself – warm, but not too hot. If you’re using a particular brand of sleepsuit, for example, see if they have a guide to room temperatures and what to dress your child in underneath.
A final word on sleep environment: Any space your little one is sleeping in should, first and foremost, be safe. Here’s a guide to safe sleep.
Get them to bed when they’re tired
You may think that keeping your kid up that little bit longer during the day will help them sleep at night. It might (because every kid is different), but expert advice largely suggests otherwise.
Recognizing your little one’s tired cues (anything from eye rubbing to staring off into space) and packing them off to sleep when you spot them can help them avoid becoming overtired – which can make them challenging to settle or even too exhausted to eat their dinner. Putting them to bed when they’re tired can help them fall asleep easier and quicker.
Set up a bedtime routine
Much like adults need to wind down for sleep, so too do kids. A good bedtime routine can help with this.
It involves doing similar activities in the same order, around the same time each night. And experts suggest starting it about 15-20 minutes before you want your little one to go to sleep.
A bedtime routine might include calming activities like reading a book together, singing lullabies and cuddles and kisses before getting into bed. Whatever the case, it’s best to avoid high-energy activities, bright lights, and screens.
There you have it, mamas. The secret to all of this? Consistency, confidence, and a big ass glass of chardonnay waiting for you once they’ve gone down.
Remember that no two kids are the same. Do what works best for you and your little one. And speak to your doctor if you’re ever worried about your child’s sleep.