How do I get my child to sleep better?

Tears, tantrums, acting unreasonably and refusing to go to bed are just a few indicators that you may be dealing with an overtired child – something that every parent knows can be a nightmare!

Sleep is especially important for children as it gives their bodies and minds time to rest, repair and refreshes, so getting enough hours a night is vital to improving attention, memory and physical health. A lack of sleep not only leads to problematic behaviour, but also to high blood pressure, mental anguish or even obesity.

So how can you help your child sleep better at night?

Bedtime routines

Introduce a bedtime routine that includes relaxing, quiet activities such as reading. An hour before bedtime, make sure you start reducing stimulating activities like watching TV or playing computer games, for younger children this often means no ‘tickle time’ before bed.

Instead, give your child a relaxing bath, read stories together, make up his or her bed, keep the room dimly lit, talk about the best parts of the day. Half an hour or 20 minutes before your child is supposed to sleep, tuck him or her into bed and start reading stories, or if he or she can get to sleep by themselves, close the door and give them some quiet time.

Having enough downtime before sleep can promote a longer and deeper rest because the mind and body are both more relaxed. It’ll also make the actual act of going to sleep less stressful for the parent because the last hour or so has been filled with sleepy-related activities.

Try and be consistent with your bedtime routine.

Try a SleepEasy Story

Sleep stories are audio stories that can be based on traditional bedtime stories but quietly engage kids to relax and imagine different worlds. Listening to sleep stories can be beneficial in helping your child learn how to quiet down and prepare for bed.

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Flying With Finn
  • Flying With Finn

Waking times

Make sure your child goes to sleep and wakes up at relatively the same time every day. Keeping a regular sleep pattern will ensure your child starts feeling sleepy at the same time.

When starting this process, don’t feel deterred if your child doesn’t go to bed at the same time – it’ll take time to get into a schedule, but it will happen.

Napping

Napping for babies or young children is an art in getting it right – making sure they sleep just the right amount, but not waking up grumpy, and at the right time so that it doesn’t impede night time sleep.

Gina Ford is an expert at baby and toddler sleep and has invaluable advice so check out her website: ginaford.com.

For older children, if they do take a nap – the key thing is to keep it short, and never close to bedtime.

Get your child to the sleep at the right time

It’s essential your child eats dinner at the right time. So even if it feels like an early dinner, your child may be eating around 4.30 pm or 5 pm to give him or her enough time to digest.

Try not to give your child anything excessively sugary as it’ll give them more energy when you really want them to start calming down. Instead, try bananas – even though they’re thought of as energy- fruit, they’re actually full of magnesium which relaxes muscles and serotonin and melatonin, which help you sleep.

If your child eats meat, then some form of protein like chicken or turkey will also help your child feel full and sleep longer.

How many hours a night should my child be sleeping?

The older your child gets, the less sleep they’ll require, that said, some kids naturally need more sleep than others, so the following is just a rough guide

Toddlers 3 - 6 years 7 - 12 years Teenagers
12 hours+
10 - 12 hours
10 - 11 hours
8 - 9 hours
a dad teaches his son to skateboard

Exercise

Exercise during the day to burn off energy, you can encourage any sports from basketball to running and walking, being active during the day will help your child feel more relaxed when it’s time for bed.

But remember not to exercise too close to bedtime – when people exercise their body temperature will generally rise, so your child will need enough downtime to cool off and shake off any stimulation.

What should you do when your child wakes up at night?

Firstly, you need to ask yourself ‘why is my child waking up at night?’

Check that he or she isn’t ill (take their temperature to rule out fever or any other illness), see if they’re too hot or cold, hungry or having nightmares or night terrors.

Are they stressed? Is there a problem at school or with friends? Talk to your child during the day and try to get to the route of the problem.

Talking things over and then trying to find a solution will help you child sleep better as their mind can calm down.

A short guided meditation made for children can be really helpful to help with their self esteem especially if they’re internalising any problems that will likely affect their sleep.

Try this one.

Once you’ve eliminated the above, but your child still wakes up every night at roughly the same time, then try not to rush into their room immediately, give them some time to try and get back to sleep themselves.

If they won’t go back to sleep, try and give them soft, calm reassurance, resisting the urge to pick him/her up too much (if they’re young), until they feel sleepy again. Keep the room dimly lit.

It may take some time at first, but stay strong and consistent.