A full, restful night of sleep can mean the difference between a happy child and a crabby one, no matter what their age. But did you also know that sleep deprivation in children can manifest as hyperactivity, clumsiness, impulsivity, and lack of focus? Being well-rested is integral to your child’s health, wellness, and development so it is important to create healthy sleeping habits as soon as possible. And whatever your parenting style, the rules for creating these habits are the same across the board. So, today, we have compiled a list of dos and don’ts of healthy sleeping practices.
The DOs of Healthy Sleeping Practices:
Establish a consistent routine
Believe it or not, children love boundaries and limits. Having set nap-times and bedtime will teach them what to expect when. Having predictable routines will help them feel secure, can lead to better self-control, and encourage independence.
Sleep times, whether for naps or for the night should be a loving, peaceful time for all involved. Yes, bedtimes can be a battle all their own, but if you approach the situation with anger, frustration, or emotional outbursts your child will develop fear and anxiety about sleeping. This is incredibly counter-productive. Take deep breaths, use a calm voice, and step away for a moment if your child is upset. Your composure is key.
Allow your little one to have a “safety” item such as a blanket or toy. These items are to be used during nap-time or bedtime ONLY. Limit this to one or two items and not the entire toy box.
Incorporate Wind Down Time
An hour or so before bedtime, it is important for your child to wind down. Much like how you might enjoy a good book at bedtime, your child can benefit from these routines as well. Dim the lights, tuck your little one into bed and read stories, listen to quiet music, or sing lullabies.
Stick With the Plan
Do your best to keep them in bed once you tuck them in and complete your winding down. If they get up, quietly walk them into their room and tuck them back in. If they are crying for you, go in and give them a reassuring pat. Do not pick them up and do not speak! Once you engage them you open the door for more questions, demands, or cries. You may have to tuck them in several times but eventually they will stay put and fall asleep.
The DON’Ts of Healthy Sleeping Practices:
Beds are For Sleeping
As mentioned above, do not fill your little one’s bed with toys, this is just a distraction for them and can greatly hinder the quality of their sleep. It is important to establish their bed as a place for rest and sleep, not play.
Avoid Negative Associations
Never use bedtime as a threat or punishment. As we mentioned above, you want bedtime to be a positive experience.
Choose Snacks Wisely
If your little one likes a pre-bedtime snack make sure to avoid foods that contain caffeine or sugar, this will negatively affect the quality of their sleep. No ice cream, no flavored yogurt, no cookies. Stick with carbohydrate-rich snacks like bananas.
If your little one is thirsty or likes to have something to drink at their bedside give them water. As with sugary foods, juice, soda, or other sugary beverages will negatively impact their sleep.
Turn off screens at least an hour before bedtime and never allow your little one to have a TV, Smart Phone, or tablet in their room. Watching screens stimulates the brain and makes it difficult to sleep restfully.
Establishing healthy bedtime habits can be difficult, especially if you’re starting from scratch with an older child. Just like with adults, replacing a bad habit with a good one takes time. Through consistency and routine your child will quickly adapt to their new schedule and will be sleeping restfully in no time.