Your child, just like you, must have enough sleep to be at their best. Similarly, they also experience difficulties in sleeping at certain times. Some precursors of sleeping difficulties are sleep disorders, poor sleep habits, and family schedules. This means that you have a lot to do o ensure that your child develops a healthy sleeping pattern at a young age.
Without a doubt, healthy sleep is quite tough for young children. You must have noticed how easy it is for your child to throw tantrums and yell at the top of their lungs when they haven’t had a good sleep. But hey! The hardest thing about their sleep routines is that it is pretty dynamic. That is why you will see a wide variation between what works for teenagers, preschoolers, and newborns. Due to these changes, you may be utterly frustrated and confused about getting your child to overcome her sleep difficulties. Hence, it is your utmost responsibility to work hand in hand with your child in order to ease into good sleep patterns.
What lack of sleep may do to your child
Inadequate sleep is the bane of some children. For example, certain children may be moody and show an intense decrease in cognitive ability. Other symptoms are unpalatable health and behavioural problems and difficulty at school. For these reasons, you should know by now that there is no better substitute for beautiful sleep patterns in your child than sufficient rest.
In simpler terms, children must sleep regardless. You see it in adults too; lack of sleep in adults makes us cranky and unhealthy in the long run, and children are not left. For them, it is perhaps worse because sleep deprivation renders problems that may last a lifetime.
More so, studies believe that obesity is one of the pointers of insufficient sleep. But greater regard is the fact that such children are predisposed to lifelong learning and behavioural problems – which may haunt the child for life. It is part of this reason that we have so many teenagers undergoing stages of stress and repeated depression, leading to poor social habits.
Most children find it difficult to sleep without either parent. No matter how much you reassure them, they only sleep when you snuggle close. It becomes a waste of time to help them suppress their fears. When you insist that they sleep alone, it may cause some rancour and everybody’s patience thins out with time. Before you know it, the child starts arguing and cries in the end. While you are trying to shut your eyes in the night, your child won’t let you sleep with so much crying. Now, your child sleeps in your bed almost all the time.
A common scenario – Anne would never sleep in her bed because she was scared and would always plead with her parents to sleep with her. Despite the reassurance, she was always worried about saying things like, “the burglars may come”. Both parents became weary to repeat the same thing, “think of something else, Anne”. Afterwards, they started sleeping in the same bed with her. Whenever she will cry in the night, they will pet her to bed again. And this was the norm in their household.
Does this sound like your household? How do I ensure my house is safe for my family? You may think that your child has some insecurities and emotional trauma. Maybe you are even thinking it would be unfair to subject her to something she isn’t prepared for? What if it speaks more about her fears? Pushing her away may traumatize her some more? It is probably natural that a child sleeps with her parents?
Furthermore, these are several questions that tug at your mind but you must know that you want your child to sleep with newfound confidence and security so that they grow up to be self-reliant and daunting. You want your child to grow up to pinpoint their problems, feelings, and tackle it head-on. You want to balance both closeness and independence so that the only reason why you have to sleep with them in bed is that you want to or that they are ill.
How much sleep does your child need?
The range is wide enough to accommodate desirable minimum hours of sleep. But better functionality is seen in children that achieve maximum hours of sleep. The recommended dosage of sleep depends on the age group of your child but a good range includes:
- Infants – 12 to 16 hours plus naps
- Toddlers – 11 to 14 hours plus naps
- Preschoolers – 10 to 13 hours plus naps
- Grade school children – 9 to 12 hours
- Teens – 8 to 10 hours
My personal experience (Carly)
When my daughter hit 4-weeks old, and was awake for longer periods during the day, I quickly realized I had a big problem. She was sleeping just about all day, and was up all night. After three nights in a row of 4:00 a.m. bedtimes, I couldn’t do it anymore. I knew something had to change.
The next day, I began to do some research. I read tips from anyone who thought they knew anything about infant sleep schedules. Implementing a set wake-up time was the first change I made. It didn’t matter if she went back to sleep 30 minutes later, every morning I woke her up at 8:30. Also, as per the pediatrician’s recommendation, I didn’t let her go more than 3 hours during the day without eating. This meant that sometimes I had to wake her up from naps to eat. But the pediatrician said the more calories she gets during the day, the less she will need at night.
The second change I made was to convey the difference between night and day. When I woke her up at 8:30, I changed her clothes. I told her that it was time to get up and get dressed for the day. Before putting her down at night, I changed her clothes again. I told her that it was time for bed and we were putting on pajamas. I tried to make sure she saw some sunlight every day, which wasn’t always easy as she’s a winter baby. Exposing babies to sunlight helps to regulate their circadian rhythm, correcting their sleep schedules. We got out for walks as much as possible, but some days we stood by the window for a few minutes every hour, just to see the sun.
Implementing a set wake-up time was the first change I made.Carly Verdi
The third and final change I made was to implement a bedtime routine. This can include a bath, a book, or a song that signals it’s time for bed. Our routine involves changing into pajamas, reading two books, saying nighttime prayers and then nursing. About every three days she gets a bath.
My daughter is now two and a half months old and sticks to a pretty consistent sleep schedule. She goes to bed roughly around 11:00 p.m. and wakes up roughly around 8:00 a.m. She’ll wake up once or twice to eat but always goes right back down. Every so often, she’ll have an off night, but for the most part, it’s pretty reliable. Her daytime nap schedule, on the other hand…
My Personal Experience (Emily)
Having a baby that struggles to sleep tests your every last nerve. Because no matter how much you adore that sweet little bundle of joy, mama needs her sleep. So does daddy. Our sanity depends on it. The reality is that each baby will react differently to sleeping techniques and aids. Trust me, at one point I had tried them all! But there was one thing that helped our little girl sleep sounder and longer as a newborn.
The reality is that each baby will react differently to sleeping techniques and aids.Emily
Enter the sleep sack. This is a snug sack that is sleeveless and allows baby’s arms to stick out of the swaddle that the rest of the sack provides. Turns out our baby loved to be swaddled to sleep – except for her arms. Even the first night in the hospital she was trying to wriggle her arms out of her swaddle. Once she was free to fling her arms around at night all was good.
Now here is the deal. You may feel pressured to do the traditional swaddle from your doctor, mother, mother-in-law, and every baby book you’ve read. But here is the best tip I could give you, even better than the swaddle sack tip. Do what is right for your baby, despite the outside pressure. If your baby needs to swing their arms around in their sleep, put them in a sleeping sack. They need a snug traditional swaddle, more power to you. Maybe they can’t handle anything but jammies. And you know what? That’s totally OK.
Helping your child sleep through the night
Most children wake up in the dark of the night. With age, they sleep for longer periods and seldom wake at odd hours. So, it is completely normal if your child wakes in the night.
Children need a good night’s sleep #childrensbedtime— The Saltbox (@saltboxsa) February 17, 2019
First, you want to decide when your child goes to bed. Also, that comes with deciding their wake time. This is a good plan that may require a good amount of time for them to adapt. Depending on your household, you should choose a bedtime routine. For instance, you may want to eat dinner before your late night bath or play games and read bedtime stories. Other times, you may keep it simple by serving dinner, brushing their teeth, and laying them in bed. But first, identify what works best for your household,
A child’s system is one that accommodates a good amount of tension. At the end of the day, they are looking for good opportunities to spill the beans. For this reason, it is important to allocate cuddle times. If possible, you set it for 30 minutes in a quiet room. This mechanism allows the child’s brain to settle and unwind before hitting the bed.
Perhaps there are about a thousand ways to help your child to sleep better. A good example is to stay in the room with your child so that they enjoy a good period of cuddles. Once they are in deep sleep, you may leave the child, shut the door, and keep off except for the times when you check on them.
For instance, you may choose the ‘gradual method’. In this method, you may sit near your child for most parts of the night until they are in deep sleep. Over the next couple of nights, move farther away until you are in the hallway, and finally in your room. Afterward, you can stick to the routine as your child has enough confidence to stay in bed alone. More importantly, you have to choose the routine that suits your child the best. If your child is old enough, you may tell them what will happen if they sleep alone in the room and what is expected of them. This talk gives them the assurance that there is no harm in sleeping alone.
If your child cannot stay in their beds, take them back and don’t stop until they get used to it. In these moments, do not offer conversations or food as a reward. Take them to bed immediately.
If a nightlight eases them into bed, get them. But make sure it is dim enough to assure them it isn’t morning whenever they wake up in the dark of the night.
I am Depleted but not Defeated #childrensbedtime— Shaun Keaveny (@shaunwkeaveny) January 8, 2012
Common problems and how to tackle them
He won’t stop calling out – If your child always calls out to you, always repeat that they shouldn’t cry out. You may also say that you expect him to wait because he can try. Be a stern parent but without threats or flaring up. If he keeps calling out, ignore him. Say ‘back in 5 or 10’. Remember that your child must be quiet and await your attention. With time, the child will be self-reliant.
What if my daughter had a nightmare and wants to sleep in our bed? – Not allowed. Stick to the rules and ensure she gets used to her bed. Yes, you may offer her cuddles and snuggles in her room but make sure she sleeps alone.
Sometimes we are asleep when the child is in bed – You have to wake up or always keep the bedroom door locked. In extreme cases, you may even hand a bell from the knob which alerts you whenever the door is opened.
Have any other great tips on helping your children sleep? Or have a personal story or experience you wish to share? We would love to hear it. Please comment below or contact us.
Good luck and happy parenting for 2019!