Bedtime can be a difficult time for any parent and getting into a routine can take a while, but now two sleep experts have provided their best tips to help you get your little ones to sleep.
Baby and children’s sleep consultant Lisa, who has 20 years worth of experience, has shared her top tips and advice to help at bedtime, while Lyndsey Hookway, the co-founder of the Holistic Sleep Coaching Program, has also provided her best sleeping tricks.
The pair have outlined a number of useful sleeping hacks, including how to get into a set routine, advantages of sleeping outdoors, the best timings and more, as reported by The Sun.
Let’s take a look through the best tips…
Lyndsey explained that children generally need less sleep as they get older, with most needing around 12-15 hours at six months but only 10-13 hours by the age of five.
She said: “These sleep totals are based on several large multi-country studies of average sleep, and of course there will also be children who fall outside of these ranges.
“I call these children ‘low sleep need’ and ‘high sleep need’ children. Children’s sleep is affected by their age, unique sleep needs, genetics, environment, lifestyle, exercise levels, stress, health and diet.”
“The average two year old needs 11-13 hours of sleep in 24 hours. This includes daytime sleep, so if a child is napping for 90 minutes in the day, and their unique sleep need is only 12 hours in 24, this means that they only need 10.5 hours overnight – so a bedtime of 8pm may be appropriate for a child who wakes up at 6.30am,” the sleeping expert explained.
Meanwhile, Lisa revealed more about sleep cycles and what they are, saying: “Sleep cycles happen every 90 minutes. This is handy to know why your baby will wake frequently throughout the night.
“It’s important that they can self settle so that every time their cycle finishes, they can continue on back to sleep. As for children, think of 90 minute cycles and count back from when you may want them to wake. That will be a desired bed-time for them.
“All children are different and you may be guided by them and when they are ready for sleep late afternoon / early evening. Take their sleep cues as being ready for rest before sleep.”
Everyone has tricks to help get their children to bed and it can be difficult to establish a set bedtime.
Lyndsey explained how sleep works by revealing how it is controlled by two separate mechanisms, body clock and sleep pressure.
It can be difficult to fall asleep if your sleep pressure is low, which is why even adults can find it tricky to have an early night.
Therefore, if you put your children to bed too early there’s a high chance that they will procrastinate, take longer to fall asleep or wake up early, meaning that the bedtime will then become stressful for them.
The expert commented: “If a child is taking more than 30 minutes to fall asleep, consider whether the bedtime is unrealistically early. If bedtime seems too late, then in general, it’s a good idea to try to inch it earlier by a very small amount to allow the child’s body clock to adjust slowly.
“While it might feel like a good idea for a child to achieve 12 hours of overnight sleep plus a two hour nap, this is wildly unrealistic for the vast majority of children with average or low sleep needs.
“Painting an unrealistic image of children’s sleep times often leads to frustration at bedtimes, and parents feeling like either they, or their children are getting it ‘wrong’ when in actual fact, it is often the recommended bedtime that is wrong.”
As you begin to try out different bedtimes, it can soon seem difficult to move your child’s sleep but Lisa has outlined a handy method for doing so.
She suggested that if you need to move your child’s bedtime, you should do it by 15 minute increments each day for several days and then increase or decrease it again.
If 15 minutes seems too much, beginning with five or 10 minutes is recommended.
Lisa explained: “If a child goes to sleep early, they will no doubt wake early. So you may have evenings to yourself (preferable by most of my previous clients), but an early wake time.
“If you try to get your child to sleep later in the hope they wake later, you will lose valuable time in the evening. It’s very difficult to have both an evening to yourself AND a lie in!”
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Some scientific research suggests that sleeping outdoors during the day time can be beneficial for children, and Lisa explained that taking a baby outside for their afternoon nap between 12-4pm can be good.
These hours are when we get the highest levels of daylight, which can help to encourage your child’s biological clock and increase their ability to sleep better at night.
Lisa also advised introducing older children to daylight as soon as the day arrives, as this lets their body know the daytime has arrived, meaning they are aware of sleep for later on.
Selecting the perfect time for bed and nap times is essential to help make sure your child’s sleeping routine runs smoothly.
Lisa recommended not letting your toddler sleep beyond 3pm and always make sure you have a cut off point.
“This is a good time as you may be preparing for the school run. Anything beyond this will interfere with their ability to sleep early in the evening,” the expert revealed.
She went on to suggest using ‘witching hours’ wisely, which are between 6-8pm each day.
She added: “These are the two hours every night that parents are trying to get their children to sleep. It’s also the time our melatonin – our sleep hormone – kicks in.
“It’s important to respect this time and make sure this window is full of relaxation and downtime. Think of restful activities such as puzzles, drawing, reading and threading.”
Food and drink choices
What your child has eaten or drank before bedtime can impact their quality of sleep and ability to fall asleep, so Lisa advises parents to think carefully about the food and drink they give their children at dinnertime.
She suggests lessening your child’s water intake at dinner and making sure there are carbs that slowly release energy on their plate, as this will also help them to feel fuller for longer.
She shared: “Do not give an excuse for your child to wake up needing the toilet!
“If they depend on water throughout the night, either take this away completely or decrease the amount of water over several nights,” she suggested.
Routine is key when it comes to your children’s bedtime, and there’s a number of different ways to help establish a set routine for each evening.
Outlining her top tips, Lisa said: “I always find it better to bathe babies at night-time rather than in the morning. We need an increase of body temperature before bedtime to allow the drop of temperature to aid sleep at night.
“For lively toddlers who do not like going to bed, allow them to take up to three toys or books to bed and let them choose their pyjamas.
“This gives them some control when it comes to bed-time and you may find better compliance from them. Try your best to give one-two-one attention both in the day and at bed-time. This will lessen the need for your child to wake in the night craving some more.
“Also, promote routine. If they go to bed at a certain time each night, continue to do so every night. We are creatures of habit. Be consistent – every single night!”
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