If parents around the world can agree on anything, it’s this — getting kids to sleep is hard.
A new study involved 10,085 mothers from 14 different countries. It looked at the effects of what a regular bedtime routine would do for kids who were 5 years old or younger. The results were conclusive. Children with a consistent bedtime routine experienced reduced night awakenings, increased sleep duration, shorter time in bed before falling asleep, and earlier bedtimes. These sleep patterns established early on are more likely to be carried through to adulthood.
But before you can reap the benefits of better sleep, you have to find a routine that will work. Here are a few things you can do to help your child get better sleep:
Stay away from exciting activities at least a half-hour before bedtime. Relaxing activities like brushing teeth, reading and bathing are good ways for your child to wind down from the day. Stress-inducing activities release a chemical in your brain called cortisol, which increases alertness. Eventually, the bedtime routine is going to work both ways, and your child will start asking for a bath or reading time as they get sleepy.
Choose a bedtime — and stick to it. Don’t let the sleep cycle pinwheel spin past the bedtime. A consistent bedtime throughout the year, including summers and weekends, is important to keep your kid on track. Your child’s internal bedtime clock, also known as the circadian rhythm, partially relies on the cues you’ve set as part of the routine. This is due to the fact that we have a 25-hour biological clock running on a 24-hour cycle. Use our bedtime calculator to find the perfect bedtime for your child based on age and wake time.
Give your child some choice in the matter. They may not have a say in when they have to hit the hay but give your child some freedom. Letting your child choose which pajamas they want to wear or which book they want to read can make a huge difference in how much of a fight they put up.
Keep it cool. If the bedroom has an extreme temperature leaning toward hot or cold, change the thermostat to a temperature that’s a bit milder. Your core body temperature naturally drops during the night. So a cool room can help promote sleep. But if a bedroom is too hot or cold, it’s going to wake your child up.
Don’t give in to the last-minute requests. One more book, one more kiss, one more snack — parents have heard it all. Once a kid starts rattling off the list of demands, it may be hard to stop. So put a premeditated halt on it. Work those demands into your child’s bedtime routine. When it’s lights off, make it clear that everything’s already been checked off on the bedtime list except the last thing: sleep.