parenting

Sleep: Four Simple Ways to Get Your Child to Sleep Longer

parentingages and stages

Do you want your child to sleep later tomorrow morning? It sounds like a silly question. Of course you do! Thankfully, there are some simple things you can do that will make a BIG difference.

4 Ways to Get Your Child to Sleep Longer

1. Get Blackout Shades

If you don’t know what I’m talking about, they are shades made from thick fabric that cover your window completely to block all light and keep the room completely dark. Most of us know it’s easier to sleep when it’s dark, but we don’t know why. As your child approaches his natural bedtime, his body releases melatonin to make him calm, relaxed, and drowsy. When it’s time to wake, his body stops releasing this hormone. Unfortunately, this process is very light sensitive. Our bodies will not release melatonin until it senses darkness, and it stops when the amount of light increases. So, without something to block the light, your child will wake with the sun, and will not be able to fall back asleep.

2. Make Bedtime Earlier

This one goes against most of our instincts, but I promise it’s true! Kids need more sleep than we think (here’s how much by age), and it is actually counterproductive to keep them up or skip naps. The body releases melatonin to help us relax and fall asleep at our natural sleep times, but if we don’t go to bed at that time, our body figures there must be a good reason, so it releases cortisol to wake us up. This leads to an overtired, wired, uncoordinated, silly, and/or cranky child that we have all encountered and would prefer to avoid. It also makes it harder to fall asleep and stay asleep all night, so most kids end up waking up EARLY rather than sleeping in after a late night.

3. Use a Wake-up Clock or Light for Kids in a Bed

Most kids don’t really understand what “morning” means. (Is it when the sun comes up? Is it something arbitrary Mom and Dad made up?) So, they don’t know when it’s okay to get out of bed. A wake-up clock gives kids a concrete representation of “morning” because it changes color or displays a picture to tell them. There are a lot of really cute clocks out there, but you can just use an appliance timer on a dim lamp in their room if you prefer.

4. Use White Noise

Most of us don’t live in completely quiet neighborhoods. Keeping older siblings silent is next to impossible, and parents don’t go to bed as early as kids do, so some noise after bedtime is inevitable. (For some reason, washing dishes seems to be kryptonite to sleep!) So, it’s a great idea to get a white noise machine for your kids’ rooms. It doesn’t have to be anything fancy, just make sure it’s at a constant volume, loud enough to cover outside noise, and available all night (not on a timer).

Have you been able to establish a good sleep routine with your kids? What has worked best for you?

Good Nite Light Photo Used with permission from http://www.goodnitelite.com

Featured image courtesy of Flickr.

Allison Smith is the mother of three girls under 5 (including a set of twins!), a Certified Gentle Sleep Coach (GSC), and the owner of Everyone Sleeps, and pediatric sleep consulting business in Montgomery County, Maryland. She has a Master’s degree in child development and was one of the first 50 coaches in the world to complete Gentle Sleep Coach certification. She is also a Certified Happiest Baby Educator (CHBE) and an International Maternity Institute Certified Sleep Coach. Allison has helped over 250 children and their familes get better sleep, using a variety of methods tailored to the values and parenting style of the each family, as well as the temperament and developmental level (physical, intellectual, and emotional) of the child. To date, none of her plans have included just leaving a child to “cry it out” alone. You can find her at Everyone Sleeps, on Facebook, or Twitter where she is happy to answer questions and help out tired parents!

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