We spend a lot of time focusing on how our babies are sleeping, but how do your older kids get on at night time? Is your bedtime routine for the whole family as good as it can be? Here are my top five tips to help your child sleep better at night- let me know what you think in the comments.
Older kids need sleep too
When a new baby comes along, or when sleep issues crop up with the youngest member of the family, it can be only too easy to switch our whole focus onto that situation to try and resolve it. So sometimes older kids are left to it when it comes to bedtime, which isn’t always necessarily a bad thing. We want to teach our kids to become independent sleepers, so that as they get older they need less input from us at bedtime. But we still need to check in to make sure they’re maintaining healthy sleep habits. Research has found that the average American child only gets between 8.8 and 9.8 hours of sleep per night, which is just not enough!
Lack of sleep can contribute towards poor concentration at school, bad moods and poor appetite. Not great for a growing kid!
Five ways to help your child sleep better at night
These are my top five tips to help nurture and maintain good sleep habits for older children.
- Limit screen time. And this goes for you too! Studies have found that children who spend time later at night looking at a screen will sleep on average 21 minutes less than normal. More at the weekend. Most families admit to have television sets in all bedrooms, and those children who fall asleep watching it are more likely to sleep less overall. The same stands for kids who have any kind of electric device in their bedroom- and the same research suggests that most families have at least one in the room where they sleep. So screen time needs to be limited. Set a rule that you can all agree to- for example, no screens after dinner. And make sure the whole family adheres to this to ensure everyone is getting a good night’s sleep. Instead, offer books or other quiet activities. Journaling is great for kids to record their thoughts and feelings about the day and a fantastic option for more sensitive children too.
- Take an audit of the bedroom. Remember that our bodies need darkness to be able to produce melatonin, the hormone that helps us to fall asleep. So night lights, televisions, iPads etc are all detrimental to your child getting good night’s sleep. Make sure you remove these items. Also make sure that the sleeping area is dim enough for sleep, and comfortable etc.
- Make sure your bedtime routine is working for the whole family. Yes, your small baby is demanding but you must make sure your routine involves everyone. Older children still need plenty of sleep at night time and so they still need to be a priority at bedtime. So sit down together to agree a bedtime, and a routine that involves everyone. Let your older child help you with small tasks with the baby so that they feel helpful, but also make sure that they are winding down and getting ready for bed themselves.
- Cut down on sugar. One of the worst things you can give your child at bedtime is sugary drinks and snacks! In fact, these could be limited from lunch time onwards. Sugar can send a lot of children in overdrive and make falling asleep, or relaxing extremely difficult. Cut it right down.
- Talk to your child. Sometimes older children can bottle up their feelings and emotions and find it difficult to express how they’re feeling. Sometimes this can affect their ability to drift off to sleep at night time. Encourage your child to talk about their day if they can, or ask them to keep a journal if that would help too. Talking about the day can help children to set their worries aside for the night, but its best to do this before the bedtime routine starts if you can.
How does your child sleep at night?