Is your child not getting to sleep again? You’re not alone!
Falling asleep can sometimes feel like an impossible dream, especially when you’re onto your 50th rendition of Twinkle, Twinkle or you’ve got your little person’s foot in your face because they wanted to sleep with you tonight (which feels like every night).
Australian working parents or stay at home spouses are doing a 10 – 15 hour day when you take into account full or part-time work and then all the work at home. That’s tough enough. Trying to do it on less than six hours of sleep makes functioning at your best even more challenging.
However, following healthy sleep habits known as “sleep hygiene” can make the world of difference. Here are some tips for getting your child’s sleep (and therefore your sleep) under control.
- Stick to a sleep schedule.
Establish a good sleep-wake cycle by getting children to bed at the same time and waking them at the same time everyday. Sleep is a habit that your body needs to learn to follow. The more consistent the sleep schedule is for your child, the more likely your child is to get into a better rhythm with their sleep. Below is an example schedule. You’ll see getting your child to bed on time starts a lot earlier than when they put on their pyjamas.
|6:00pm||Showers; Clean teeth; PJ’s on||Mum & Dad|
|7:00pm||Bed time story on the couch||Mum or Dad|
|7:15pm||Into bed, lights out: no noise.||Mum or Dad|
|7:30pm||Dinner for Mum and Dad|
- Limit light exposure.
Controlling how much light children are exposed to during the day and before bed may help them sleep better at night. This is based on the idea that when children are exposed to light their brain becomes alert, and in darkness, their brain becomes relaxed and sleepy. During the day expose your child to as much natural light as possible! At night ensure they avoid bright screens such as on a phone, television, iPad or computer (at least 2 hours before sleep). In addition, ensure that your children sleep in a dark room and that they avoid opening lots of lights in the house when going to the toilet.
Exercise is often a really helpful tool for improving your child’s sleep. If your children are playing a sport, exercising or even running around with their friends it may help them avoid feeling sleepy, fatigued or tired throughout the day. This helps to reduce unnecessary naps or sleeping at irregular times. For those children with too much energy, regular exercise may provide an outlet for them to release some of that energy and assist them with winding down at the end of the day. Ensure that your child exercises at a smart time (at least 3-4 hours before bed)! Exercising too close to bedtime may make it harder for them to fall asleep.
- Be mindful of what you put into your body.
Your child’s diet can play a major role in their sleep. Establishing a well-balanced diet for your child may help to provide them with longer lasting energy throughout the day, assisting them to fall asleep easier and to sleep for longer. Avoid giving your child too much sugar or carbohydrates before bed as well as big meals before bed. You’ll see in the example schedule that dinner is first followed by all of the other tasks allowing your child’s tummy to settle before bed. Also, avoiding giving your child too many liquids before bed, which may lead to one too many trips to the bathroom!
- Create a peaceful sleep environment.
Creating a peaceful environment for your children to sleep is vital for getting a good night’s sleep. Help to keep their bedroom dark, quiet and cool… and by cool we mean the temperature! Minimise the noise in their room as best as you can – you might even like to give them earplugs for that unavoidable noise (e.g. traffic). Ensure your child’s room is not too hot or too cold, which may affect the quality of their sleep and even prevent them from falling asleep. Finally, ensure that your child’s bed is comfortable and has the right amount of pillows (and, of course, their favourite pillow case).