Whether you’re just bringing your newborn home from the hospital or coaching your toddler through the Terrible Twos, one piece of parenting advice always seems to ring true: Prepare for sleepless nights. As stressful as this is for parents, poor sleep is also an issue for children themselves, whose growing bodies need ample time to rest. Thankfully, there are simple ways to help your children create good sleeping habits, and also get a little more rest yourself.
Put Babies to Bed before They’re Asleep
Babies who learn to fall asleep in their own beds are less likely to need your help to fall back asleep if they wake during the night. As you get to know your new baby, you’ll begin to recognize the signs that he or she is getting tired. Rather than holding or rocking your baby until she’s asleep, put her to bed when you notice these signs of sleepiness. Always put babies to sleep on their backs on a firm Purple mattress. Do not leave any loose, soft materials like pillows, blankets, or toys in the crib with the baby, as these present a suffocation hazard. Stick with this routine, and soon your baby will begin to associate going to bed with falling asleep. This is also a good habit to develop in older children, especially toddlers.
Follow a Strict Schedule
Keeping to consistent bedtimes and wakeup times can help kids develop good sleeping habits. Not only are they less likely to argue about getting to bed on time, they’ll be better prepared for the routines of daycare and school once they’re old enough to attend. As tempting as it can be to let schedules slip on the weekends or over vacations, the less variation the better. Even adults know how challenging it can be to wake up early again on Monday morning after a weekend of sleeping in. Sticking to a consistent schedule makes for healthier sleep patterns for all ages.
Create a Good Sleeping Environment
By creating a space that’s dedicated to sleeping, you can help strengthen the association your children have between going to bed and going to sleep. Move play spaces and time-out or punishment spaces to other parts of the house to keep the bedroom sleep-oriented. Make sure your children’s mattresses are appropriately sized and comfortable. If your child is a restless sleeper, consider a new mattress as a possible solution, and if a mattress is more than eight years old, it should be replaced regardless of comfort.
Be Active and Limit Electronics
Active kids are tired kids. Not only is daily physical activity good for their overall health, but it also leaves them ready to hit the hay when bedtime rolls around. Even better, make time for active play as a family. Go for a walk in the evening instead of sitting down to watch TV or play video games. Screens like these emit high-energy light that mimics the sunlight during the brightest hours of the day. Avoiding screens like these before bed can prevent the disruption to the sleep-wake cycle this light can cause.
Sleep training is challenging for both parents and kids. It can feel selfish to teach children to sleep independently and encourage them to sleep through the night, but in reality, it’s the healthiest option for your children as well as for you. Setting your children up with good sleeping habits from childhood gives them a leg up on building healthy, happy lives for themselves in the future, and that’s a very sweet dream indeed.