Use physical activity to promote sleep by provide with physical activity during the day to help them sleep more soundly at night. For your baby this can mean some tummy time, for your toddles this means a walk, and for older kids this can mean signing up for sports. Vigorous exercise is stimulating, so enjoy being active as a family earlier in the day but not too close to bedtime.
2. Check your diet!
Serve foods that are sleep enhancing, not sleep inhibiting, especially before bedtime. Before bed serve complex carbohydrates with protein, and they won’t wake up hungry anytime soon. Foods high in protein or sugar can give an energy blast that can make it hard for them to get to sleep. Be careful not to eat too close to bedtime. Eliminate any caffeine your child is consuming and if you are breastfeeding that includes you!
3. Turn it off!
Avoid TV/computer/video games and other highly stimulating forms of play right before bedtime. Begin your child’s bedtime routine when your child is sleepy but not overtired. The bedtime routine of bathing, teeth brushing etc, should last 30 to 60 minutes and it should include elements that he finds genuinely enjoyable. End the night with a book, story time, or cuddles.
4. Stick to a Schedule!
Keep your child on a regular sleep and nap schedule. child’s wake-up time and bedtime should stay within a one-hour window most of the time. Make sure that schedule fits your child! You can make exceptions on special occasions, but you don’t want your child’s circadian rhythm (sleep-wake cycle) to get out of whack.
5. Use the sun and moon!
Daylight plays a powerful role in resetting our circadian rhythms, so by exposing your child to daylight when they wake up in the morning, you’ll be giving a cue that morning has arrived. Daytime naps should be done in a bright room. Only bedtime should be done in a dark room.
6. Make the bed and room comfy!
Provide your child with a sleep environment that is sleep-enhancing; that means a (but not cold), dark and quiet room. Make sure that your child’s is mattress is firm. Socks and comfortable pajamas are sometimes the simplest solution. Childproof your child’s bedroom too and you will also sleep more soundly and avoid accidental wake-ups by not checking so often on the children.
7. Get enough sleep!
The National Sleep Foundation says babies need 14 to 15 hours of sleep, toddlers need 12 to 14 hours and preschoolers need 11 to 13 hours each day for optimal health and function. The more sleep-deprived a child is, the more likely he is to be sleepy and overtired during the day, just like mommy. One bad night can lead to another.
8. Self soothe!
Teach your child how to soothe himself back to sleep. There are many books on this issue. Find a plan that fits your needs and will reinforce relaxing bedtime routines and encourage your child to soothe himself back to sleep if he wakes up in the night. Some children will still need some hands-on help from mommy, but with sleep training the “I need water, I need to potty” 100 times will stop.
9. Sleep when they sleep!
Yes, it is easier said that done but if your children nap, cuddle up next to them or dive into your bed and get some shut eye while you can. A catnap can be just what you need to feel rejuvenated.
Yes sleep can take practice and doesn’t come easy to everyone. As you and your children adjust to this new pattern don’t forget to practice good sleep hygiene yourself.
By following these simple tips you and your children may get a better nights sleep that can turn sleep deprivation into a thing of the past. You have more patience and energy to deal with whatever single parenting challenges come your way and you will also be modeling healthy sleep habits for your child.