Let’s Get a Good Night’s Sleep
One of the greatest challenges some parents face is getting their children to sleep – alone, in their own beds, and through the night. Parents complain that their children resist going to bed, cry and yell from the bedroom, leave their bed or room repeatedly, and sometimes end up sleeping with their parents. When this is the typical evening pattern, children and parents get too little sleep and fatigue affects the mood, health, and daily functioning of the entire family.
There are a variety of possible reasons why children have sleep disturbances. Some contributing factors may be medical (e.g., breathing, gastrointestinal issues). For that reason, a consultation with a pediatrician is typically a sensible first step. More often, however, sleep problems can be tied to environmental and behavioral issues. For example, a child might be too stimulated by his surroundings to rest, uncomfortable in his bedroom, and/or seeking the attention and “drama” he produces through nighttime disruptions. In these cases, there are a variety of practical strategies that may improve children’s sleep. Here are some ideas:
Make the surrounding comfortable (but also boring)
Reduce the stimulation in the child’s bedroom by removing toys, books, and other items that might be distracting or entertaining.
Allow the child something comforting (e.g., stuffed animal, special pillow or blanket, article of clothing, soft, noninteractive toy) to hold in bed.
Consider playing soft music or white noise to drown out other sounds in the house.
Turn the lights down low, but provide a night light if desired by the child.
Create a consistent, calming bedtime routine
Establish consistent bedtime routine with time limits for each activity designed to calm the child and make the transition to bed. For example,
- Turn technology (TV,video games) off at 7:00 p.m.
- Shower, brush teeth, and put dirty clothes away
- Say good night to other family members and go into bedroom
- Lie in bed and read or tell stories, specifying how many pages or length of time
- Hig/Kiss/snuggle (e.g.,”one big squeeze” and say good night)
(It often helps to use song or dialogue to end these interactions)
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