Having a child that has trouble sleeping can be exhausting and extremely frustrating, but it’s important to remember that there are a large variety of tips and tricks to help ease them into a night of slumber - you just have to find what works best for your child.
Creating the perfect nighttime routine will involve many factors like making sure your kid has a good bed and mattress, an appropriate sleeping environment, and ample time to wind down. Here are just a few tips and suggestions to help get your little ones down and asleep in no time.
Don’t tire them out just before bed! Though at least an hour’s exercise a day is good for better health and sleep, research also suggests that it keeps people alert for up to 2 hours afterwards. It raises our body temperature, increases our heart rate and stimulates brain chemicals to help keep us awake. If tiresome activities are on the cards, make sure they have plenty of time to wind down afterwards before attempting to go to sleep.
Some kids benefit from sensory stimulation such as slow calming movements, like rocking back and forth in a rocking chair, or swinging peacefully in a hammock. Why not also try some deep pressure tricks like giving them a snuggle while reading a bedtime story, weighted blankets, or tucking them in nice and tightly.
When it comes to bedtime, it’s always best to get your kid’s room as dark as possible to help them get to sleep. Melatonin is the hormone our brain produces to shut our bodies down so they’re ready for sleep, but it gets killed off by light. This is why we begin to feel more tired when it’s dark, and when morning comes the light wakes you up as it releases you from the melatonin’s sleepy grasp. So as a rule of thumb, the darker the room the better the sleep, but what if your kids are afraid of the dark? A soft night light, lava lamp or lighted fish tank can help soothe them enough to forget the scary darkness. Make sure to avoid all blue lights as this is the type of light that breaks down Melatonin, so the best colour to go for is red as this doesn’t affect it as much.
Another good reason to ban screens before bedtime is the fact that they also emit blue light, slowing down the rate of melatonin production and therefore keeping your kids up for longer. It’s best to avoid any TV, phone or iPad use for 1-2 hours before bed as it can cause delays of an hour or more in falling asleep, and much more harmful effects after long term use.
A warm bath before bed can be just the trick needed to help them relax, as it raises their body temperature, which then slowly falls after they get out of the tub, sparking an increase in melatonin. Other soothing physical sensory tricks can involve textures like your child’s favourite stuffed toy or a preferred blanket, or gently massaging lotion on their skin.
Lull them to sleep with soft music, or if needed get some gentle background noise going with a white noise machine or by leaving a fan on. You can even get some relaxing lavender and vanilla scents going, either as essential oil diffusers, as part of a warm bubbly bath or as roll ons.