Is your child sleeping through the night? How many times have we heard this? The question in itself is curious because the truth of the matter is that, as parents, we are constantly bombarded by messages that we will "NEVER sleep again". True as this may be for some, it isn't for all and unless there is an underlying condition (ADHD, ASD) there isn't a reason why your kids shouldn't sleep through. Believe it or not, babies and children also want to sleep. So, two children later I can confidently confirm this to be a fact. It takes routine and consistency and yes at times (between teething, colds and flues etc.) it all goes pear-shaped, but rest assured, there is hope, more often than not adults in this household sleep!
Robert Hilt shares the secrets of the trade below:
- •Keep consistent bedtimes and wake times every day of the week. Late weekend nights or sleeping-in can throw o a sleep schedule for days.
- •Avoid spending lots of non-sleep time in bed — spending hours lying on a bed doing other activities before bedtime keeps our brains from associating the bed with sleep time.
- •Child’s bedroom should be cool, quiet and comfort- able. Children who stare at clocks should have their clocks turned away from them.
- •Bedtime should follow a predictable sequence of events, such as brushing teeth and reading a story.
- •Avoid high stimulation activities just before bed, such as watching television, playing videogames, communication with friends, or exercise. Do not do these things during a nighttime awakening either. It is best not to have videogames, televisions, computers or phones in the child’s bedroom.
- •Having physical exercise as a part of the day often helps with sleep time many hours later.
- •Relaxation techniques such as performing deep, slow abdominal breaths or imagining positive scenes like being on a beach can help a child relax.
- •Avoid caffeine (sodas, chocolate, tea, co ee) in the afternoons/evenings. Even if caffeine doesn’t prevent falling asleep it can still lead to shallow sleep or frequent awakenings.
- •If child is awake in bed tossing and turning, it is better for them to get out of bed to do a low stimulation activity, (i.e. reading) then return to bed later. This keeps the bed from becoming associated with sleeplessness. If still awake after 20-30 minutes, spend another 20 minutes out of bed before lying down again.
- • Worry time should not be at bedtime. Children with this problem can try having a “worry time” scheduled earlier when they are encouraged to think about and discuss their worries with a parent.
- • Children should be put to bed drowsy, but still awake. Letting them fall asleep other places forms habits that are di cult to break.
- • Security objects at bedtime are often helpful for children who need a transition to feel safe and secure when their parent is not present. Try to include a doll, toy or blanket when you cuddle or comfort your child, which may help them adopt the object.
- • When checking on a child at night, checks should be “brief and boring.” The purpose is to reassure the child you are present and that they are okay.
- • If your child is never drowsy at the planned bedtime, you can try a temporary delay of bedtime by
- 30 minute increments until the child appears sleepy, so that they experience falling asleep more quickly once they get into bed. The bedtime should then be gradually advanced earlier until the desired bed time is reached.
- • Keep a sleep diary to keep track of naps, sleep times and activities to nd patterns and target problem areas when things are not working.
Taken from in "A Clinical Guide to Pediatric Sleep" by Mindell & Owens