Getting Back to Good Nights (and Days!): Eight Sleeping Solutions to Help Tired Tots and Their Parents Get Some Rest
Kimberley Clayton Blaine, MA, MFT
As soon as your little one comes into your world the age ‘ol philosophy is true! That pregnant women and mommies with newborns need to protect their sleep. Sleep deprivation is an underlying cause for many problems large and small for moms and families. Sleep: As most parents of small children know, it’s the Holy Grail. Having a child who sleep well means having a child who is more likely to be even-tempered, easier to please, and more compliant. And a mom and dad who are rested, refreshed, and ready to face the day with their energetic bundle of joy. But let her skip naptime one time and your typically happy-go-lucky baby or toddler can quickly turn into a overly fussy, tantrum-throwing, meltdown prone little being. There’s a good reason and there are solutions out there to help lull your little one into better naps and nighttimes.
Children who nap and sleep well at night have fewer behavior problems. Overly tired children can’t appropriately balance their physical and emotional world, causing them to act out and behave badly.
Children and parents both need good rest to make sure they are presenting their best self during the course of a day. Lack of sleep lead to irritability, shorter tempers on both parts, so making sure you catch enough Z’s at night can mean having kids who behave better and parents who, well, parent with more patience. So what do you if your baby or toddler shuns sleep? There are eight easy things that every parent can do to get back to good nights (and days) in no time:
Figure out how much sleep your child should be getting.
One year old: 13 hours
Two years old: 12–15 hours (includes nap)
Three years old: 11–14 hours (includes nap)
Four years old: 10–13 hours (includes nap)
Five years old: 10–12.5 hours (no nap)
If your child acts out, throws tantrums, or had a tendency to meltdown in the early evening hours, then there’s a good chance she isn’t getting enough sleep.
Stick to the schedule. Set a regular time for naps and bedtime so their little bodies will begin to adjust to the circadian rhythm of the sleep schedule you set.
Keeping a strict sleep schedule is vital to getting more rest for both you and your child. Plan your errands and day trips around naptime, and make sure that you stick to your night time schedule even on vacation
Insist on “rest time” every afternoon. Some children are great nappers. They go down with ease at the same time every day and take a regular nap up until the age of five. It’s important to ensure that your child has a few quiet times each day.
Keep after dinner playtime to a minimum. Too much activity close to bedtime can keep children from being able to fall asleep.
Make a night ritual of the bedtime routine. Having a bedtime routine is a great way for both you and your child to unwind each day. It is also a great cue for them to know that bedtime is coming so they know what to expect It’s never too early to start a bedtime routine. From the time a baby comes home from the hospital, set a relaxing routine that sets the tone for sleep.
Keep the temperature just right. Small children have a harder time regulating their own body temperature and, babies especially, can have difficulty falling and staying asleep if they are too hot or too cold.
Set the sleeping mood. When children are trying to sleep, even the tiniest distraction can keep them from getting the shut-eye they need. Make sure that your child’s sleep environment is snug, cozy, and dark. If necessary, use a white-noise machine and a nightlight and always keep the noise level low
The most important thing is that parents manage their expectations. When it comes down to it, you can’t force kids to sleep. All you can do is set them up for success, make sure they get some sort of rest during the day, and the rest will come. And remember that you are not alone. There are plenty of parents out there- including myself- who struggle to get their kids to sleep. Have patience, stick with it and you’ll both be having good nights and great days before you know it.
Kimberley Clayton Blaine, MA, MFT, is the executive producer of the online parenting show http://www.thegotomom.tv/ and author of the new book, The Go-To Mom’s Parents’ Guide to Emotion Coaching Young Children and The Internet Mommy.