In this first post, Helping Your Preschooler Fall Asleep Part 1, we talked about some key things that can contribute to either restfulness or wakefulness in preschool children. In this post I’ll discuss some strategies for helping kids get enough sleep at the right time.
1. Stick to one bedtime Same bat-time, same bat-channel. Routine is an important part of a child’s life. Our days are made up of the day-to-day similar routines and our nights should be too. Even if you have the luxury of sleeping in and not going anywhere in the morning, stick to the routine anyway. We know this contributes to better sleep for adults (even if we don’t always heed this advice) and the same goes for our kids.
2. The earlier, the better Our rhythms are set up to coincide with daylight and darkness. Kids’ bodies are ready for sleep after dark and finding a time between sunset in the summer and sunset in the winter provides a good balance yearound. While this is just a basic rule of thumb, we have used a 7pm bedtime very effectively with our kids. You know your child best and can figure out what time is going to work best for them. Just make sure that they’re tired but not overtired.
3. A bedtime routine doesn’t have to be elaborate I hear from parents all the time that their bedtime routine with kids takes hours. Hours! Designing an elaborate routine in the beginning can lead to frustration and resentment for parents. If you enjoy a long bedtime routine and your child thrives on it, then no worries. But for those who worry that their routine needs to be long in order to work…save yourself the trouble! A simplified routine of teeth brushing, bedtime story and lights out can work as well for settling a child as a bath, lotion, warm milk, brushing, song, story, back rub, etc. If you have a long routine and want to shorten it, try dropping one activity each week until you’ve wittled it down. A manageable routine makes bedtime easier for everyone.
4. Address fears Preschoolers have reached an age where nightmares and fearful thoughts can turn bedtime into scary time. I have seen parents handle this development in many different ways.
- monster spray: fill a small spray bottle with water and a few drops of essential oil. Spray away the monsters!
- lullaby CD: music can calm fears and help kids drift off to sleep
- new space: sometimes a child may want to sleep on the floor or in their closet. Just having some new linens on the bed can help.
- avoid television before bed: even calm programming can fuel fears
- night light: choose a nightlight with red or pink light. This helps a child sleep soundly but will help them see in the middle of the night.
- talk about fears during daylight hours: ask your child about her fears and let her talk. Try active listening to get a clear understanding of her concerns.
Sleep can be a challenging issues when you have young children. When sleep goes out the window our sanity and decision-making skills aren’t far behind. Start with these four strategies, branch out and try something else. Experiment to find out what works best for your family right now. And remember, like everything else, this too shall pass!
Do you have any advice for parents of preschoolers? What’s worked for you?