Tips for Battling Sleep Issues with Your Child: Part 1
Rising tension as bedtime approaches… endless call backs… falling asleep in your child’s bed…. your child slipping into your bed during the night… When children are not getting good sleep, it can be incredibly disruptive for a family. Your child is not doing his best because he is overtired, and you are not able to do your best, because you are too sleep deprived and dealing with growing frustration.
The following are some general tips and guidelines to begin working towards better sleep if this is occurring in your home:
- To begin with, set bedtime around the time that your child is usually falling asleep. Once bedtime settling is going more smoothly, then you can slowly work to back it up earlier in the night until you reach an appropriate time for them to get the right amount of sleep.
- Having a consistent bedtime routine is very important for establishing good sleep patterns. This includes: the same rituals, performed fairly similarly, at around the same time, every night. Common nighttime rituals include evening snack, bath time, brushing teeth, stories, talk time, songs, prayers, and cuddles. Bedtime routines ideally should begin at least a half hour to an hour before the time you want your child to be closing his eyes for sleep. Bedtime routines are important because they set the stage for calmness and quiet time. These routines also send your child’s brain the message that the night is winding down and that it is soon time for sleep. “Screen time” is not recommended prior to bed, as it is highly stimulating for the brain and sends the brain messages to wake up and get activated rather than settle and sleep.
- Set a limit on call-backs (i.e., a request for water, for another hug, a stuffed animal). If your child calls you back many times after you’ve said good night, then give him a maximum of three call-backs. After the last one has been used, then remind him that there are no more call-backs until the next night and it is just time for him to go to sleep.
Changing night time sleep patterns can be challenging for you and for your child. Parents may find that with a few changes, improvement is quickly seen. However, many other parents find it helpful to work on bedtime issues with a therapist.
A recommended resource is: Solving Your Child’s Sleep Problems, by Richard Ferber (this book provides a good overview of sleep cycles, recommended sleep amounts, and strategies to support sleep difficulties).