Parents since the beginning of time have been wondering how to get a child to sleep. And we still haven’t quite figured it out ’cause according to WebMD, an astounding seven out of ten children aren’t getting enough z’s – and as we all know, if the kids aren’t sleeping, neither are we.
So how do you get a child to sleep? Of course, there are safe and effective, natural sleep aids for children, but there may be no need to go there, especially when getting your kids to sleep can be as simple as creating the space for them to prepare for slumber.
Especially for very young babies or toddlers, establishing a solid nightly ritual is incredibly efficient in getting them off to sleep. And of course, the earlier this is achieved the more natural the idea of heading to bed at a certain time will become, plus routine becomes habit, hopefully allowing a healthy sleep schedule to become second nature.
Plus, it’s pretty darn easy to start implementing. So here goes, here are 3 simple steps to get a child to sleep. They might be all your child needs for bedtime bliss.
1. Banish sleep-robbing ingredients
It’s a staple concern of any parent: watching what their kids eat, but you’d be surprised at the amount of products that contain hidden sugars, E numbers and, most importantly, caffeine.
Bear in mind that a child’s body has much less defense against the energetic effects of caffeine intake than an adult body. Studies have shown that even just one caffeine heavy drink in a day can lop off half an hour of sleep from your child’s night – so keep an eagle eye out for ingredients labels.
That goes for the obvious – sugar-filled sodas, bottled teas, chocolate and coffee-flavored ice cream – as well as the not-so-obvious – OTC medications like Anacin, Excedrin, and Dristan as well as drinks and protein bars containing guarana, a herbal stimulant.
2. Schedule time to unwind
A lot of parents feel the need to put their children into as many extra-curricular activities as possible, especially when just beginning school, around the time they’re just beginning to acquire their own tastes and hobbies. A full schedule can be a fantastic thing for a growing child, but it can also have a knock-on effect.
As we know ourselves; a fuller schedule can leave less time for you, and even basic nightly rituals like dinner or homework get pushed to later and later times to accommodate it – which means many children aren’t getting a chance to unwind, and naturally feel sleepy before being put to bed, which can completely alter a sleep schedule.
To remedy this, start the unwinding, pre-bedtime routine about an hour before your child should be asleep. Begin with the usual nightly ritual of brushing teeth, make sure all digital screens are turned off, dim the lights way down, and then tuck your child in for books or bedtime stories. This is also a good time to try some creative sleep aids for children (that don’t require supplements).
3. There’s magic in darkness
A huge issue with children falling asleep can actually be too much light. This is an interesting one, given that there’s a whole market of night lights catering to children afraid of the dark, but that very same light could well be keeping your child awake.
Melatonin, the hormone responsible for regulating our sleep and wake cycle and for inducing gentle drowsiness before bed is sensitive to light and our bodies only begin increasing its production when there’s low or no light.
The less light pollution, as well as sound, the more likely your child will get a solid night’s sleep. If you’re living in a city or somewhere with bright street lights, the easiest solution is to invest in some ‘blackout blinds’ – they have tape-on shades as well as suction-cup blinds so installation is quick and simple.
If your child is afraid of the dark, opt for a timed night light like Cloud B’s Twilight Turtle who’ll transform the ceiling into a starry night sky and then turn itself off in 45 minutes to ensure total darkness during your child’s deep sleep.