Sleepless nights are part of the deal in the first months of a young baby’s life. But after they’ve stopped having night feeds, many children still wake frequently before dawn. Some find it hard to settle down at night, some suffer from night terrors or just need comfort when they wake, while others are up with the lark every morning. If you’re worried your child isn’t getting enough rest and looking for ways to improve their sleep (and yours!) try our top sleep tips for children.
Tips for a better night’s sleep
Everyone needs a good night’s sleep in order to function properly. Children are no different – in fact, sleep is especially important for young brains and bodies that are still developing and growing. These sleep tips for children can help your little one to get all the rest they need.
Getting into a good bedtime routine can help prepare children for sleep in two ways: psychologically, they will build sleep associations and understand that after dinner comes a bath, then milk, stories and sleep, while physiologically their bodies will come to expect to rest at the same time each day. The details and timings of your routine are up to you and will depend on your lifestyle. Whatever your sleep routine involves, the most important thing is to keep it consistent.
If your child needs you close by in order to settle to sleep, they may also need you to get back to sleep if they wake in the night. Comfort objects like a blanket or favourite teddy can help children to make the transition to settling themselves. Some children naturally adopt a comfort object that acts as a sleep aid, but if not, you can encourage your child to build up an attachment to a favourite toy by always having it with you when you comfort them.
Create a good sleep environment
Too much light or noise can spoil the quality of our sleep. In summer, this can be a problem! By investing in blackout blinds for your child’s bedroom, you can help block out the light and keep their sleep environment as dark as possible.
If your child uses a night light or watches TV before bed, the artificial light can stop the production of melatonin, the sleep hormone (by tricking the body into thinking it’s still daytime.) Try cutting down on TV and bright lights immediately before bed. If your child won’t sleep without a light, a good tip is to use a red bulb, because red light doesn’t affect melatonin production in the same way.
Most children will need at least one daytime nap until they are 2 or 3, or sometimes older. But if your child is getting too much sleep during the day, they may not feel tired enough to settle at bedtime. Consider cutting down on naps and see if it has an effect on your child’s night-time sleep. If they can’t quite cope without a nap just yet, a good sleep tip is to use up your child’s energy without overstimulating them. Make sure they get plenty of exercise and time outdoors in nature, which will prepare them for rest at night.