Ah, sleep. It can be an elusive mistress when you’re a parent, which seems strange because your child is sleeping overall more than you, so you should be getting regular opportunities, right? If you’re still reading, then I suspect your child is not as solid of a sleeper as you would like. So let’s break this topic down and get to the heart of why your child is having sleep issues and how to get them back on track. Sleeping is serious business!
There are three types of people in regards to sleep: those who don’t need more than 7 hours and can function normally, those who do need more than that to feel rested but don’t need it regularly, and then those who need 8 to 9 hours on a regular basis to feel human (that’s the group Rob and I fall into), so when John had momentary lapses in good sleeping judgement, we tackled it like a child being set loose to find hidden easter eggs!
There is a lot of information out there (see sources below) on how much sleep your child should be getting and why. This article is only going to touch on how to get your child to sleep and stay asleep at night.
Make bedtime a routine of rituals
Children need a set routine that starts at the same time, with the same events in the same order, that last a certain amount of time. In our house, beginning at 7PM, John’s routine began: Rob would walk upstairs with him, John would put his clothes in the hamper, then take a bath and brush his teeth, then get in his bed where I would read him three stories he would pick out. Three exactly. He knew that he would get three stories and there would not be a fourth. Then we would sing two songs with the lights out, I would lay next to him for a couple minutes, and I would leave. Sometimes he would fall asleep, sometimes not. He had some control over the events, like which bath toys he could play with, what pajamas he would wear and which stories I would read, but he knew our routine never varied. If he got out of bed, we had a consequence, like taking his Monkey for one minute. As you can imagine, this was upsetting to him. You have to think in advance of what you’re going to do if your child gets out of bed after the routine. And then have back up plans to your back up plans.
Do. Not. Give. In.
Make it clear to your child that sleeping is important and that there are boundaries that will not be crossed because their body needs it to be healthy and grow. You can offer a reward of some kind in the morning if they stay in bed and go to sleep, like which cereal they want Daddy to eat for breakfast or which shoes Mommy will wear to the park, but do not give in. All humans need boundaries to feel safe, your child most of all!, so keep firm on the rules. If you give in once, it will be ten times harder the next night.
Set up a successful environment
Your child’s bedroom should be free of distractions. We did not have toys stored in John’s room, for example. There was a night light, but it was very dim. During the summer, we made sure the ceiling fan was on so that he didn’t get overheated. We also didn’t make loud noises while he was going to sleep and left his door open just a few inches with no bright light on nearby.
Get the energy out during the day and eat right
If your child is not getting enough exercise or not eating enough at dinner, those will definitely play into their body having a hard time going to sleep, but don’t allow wrestling or exciting activities just before bedtime. Think about how hard that would be for you. It’s the same for children.
Is your child snoring?
When my sister was 10 years old, she had her tonsils taken out. My mom told me it was because she snored at night. If your child isn’t having an easy time sleeping, ask your pediatrician about it. Snoring on occasion is normal. Every night is not.
Make sure you aren’t doing anything exciting before AND after you put your child to bed
Rob and I waited until John was asleep before watching TV. If your child thinks you are doing something fun, they will want to join you. Be as boring as possible. Sometimes, Rob and I pretended to go to bed ourselves. Washing dishes after dinner was the most exciting thing we did before bedtime. Take the stimulation out of the evening.
Is your child getting up too early?
We had this problem. We bought John a digital clock and covered the minutes with duct tape. We told him that until the number 6 was on his clock, he was not allowed to get out of bed. (This was a tip my older sister, Heidi, used and it worked like a charm!)
Is your child going to bed early enough?
Children who go to bed later than they should can get overtired and fight it. Children need a LOT of sleep. Put them to bed early. And don’t alter your schedule on weekends. Keep the routine!
Pretend you are in the military
For a while, we felt like sleep drill sergeants. The routine was rigid and we followed the clock to know when the next phase of our bed routine was to commence. Remember, children feel safe when they know what to expect and are given firm boundaries.
John hated it when we finished stories and left him, sometimes getting up ten minutes after we put him to bed. Every time he upped the ante, we upped it, too. Rob and I knew that if we didn’t get enough sleep, we couldn’t be the best version of ourselves…parent, spouse, employee, friend, coworker…and we wanted that for John, too. John’s phases of fighting our routine never lasted long because we stuck to our guns. So sit down and think about how you want YOUR routine to go at night, when it starts, how long each part is, plan out EVERY detail, share it with those in your house and prepare for every contingency. Once your child realizes you mean business, sleep will come. Sweet dreams!
Sunrise Montessori Preschool has two locations in Round Rock. Interested in learning first hand what we can offer your child? Then book a tour on our website at Sunrise-Montessori.com or call us so you can discover why Sunrise Montessori Preschool is where YOUR family belongs!