It’s that time of year again — daylight saving time is over, and everyone’s sleep schedules are thrown out of whack as we get used to the extra hour of daylight in the morning and the earlier sunset. For adults, it usually means a few days of broken sleep, but for kids, it can be a total game-changer.
“I don’t want to go to bed yet, it’s too early!”
To avoid the inevitable “fall-back” fights, here are some tried-and-true tips and tricks to get your kids to sleep earlier.
1. Wake up on Time
Set up a household wake-up time instead of allowing everyone to wake up on their own time. Not only will this get your kids used to the idea of waking up for school every morning, you’ll have an easier time sticking to an overall sleep/wake routine.
Now, this isn’t always going to work. Sick days always get a pass, of course, as do days where you were up late the night before, but in general, you should always try to get everyone up at the same time every morning.
2. Invest in Blackout Curtains
The end of daylight saving time sucks, especially if you’re trying to keep your little ones in bed in the morning and suddenly the sun is coming up at 6:30 a.m. Invest in some good-quality blackout curtains to help keep the sunlight out of the kid’s sleeping area. This purchase also makes sense if you live somewhere that has bright streetlights or other exterior lights that could interfere with your kid’s sleep schedule. Cities have begun investing in LED street lamps, and while they might help the city save money, they’re horrible if they’re shining in your window at night.
3. Stick to a Bedtime Routine
You need a good bedtime routine that focuses on relaxing your child and slowly easing them to sleep. It should start with a nice relaxing bath and changing into comfortable pajamas. Next, have your children brush and floss their teeth — this is an important habit to get into — then wind down with a story or some other relaxing activity that eventually ends with your kids sleeping in their own bed.
A relaxing routine in the evening helps facilitate sleep and makes it easier to stick to your morning wake-up schedule, as well.
4. Don’t Neglect Nap Time
As an adult, I fully regret all the naps I refused to take as a child. For your kids — especially if they’re still little — don’t neglect nap time. Not only do naps help your kids get the extra sleep their growing body needs, but they also help make bedtime easier by keeping your kids from being overtired when nighttime rolls around. You want your kids to be tired, but if they’re overtired because of a lack of naps during the day, they’ll fight sleep and turn bedtime into WWIII.
5. Pick Age-Appropriate Bedtimes
Instead of forcing all your kids to go to bed at the same time, try to set their bedtime routines around a more age-appropriate bedtime. Newborns sleep for approximately 15 to 18 hours a day, and don’t follow a traditional circadian rhythm. Older toddlers need a bit less sleep — between 12 and 15 hours a night, starting between 5:30 and 7:30 p.m. for bedtime.
Between ages 3 and 6, kids require between 11 and 13 hours of sleep, and most pediatricians recommend they go to bed between 6 and 8 p.m.
Elementary school-aged kids require 10 to 11 hours of sleep, and go to bed best between 7:30 and 9 p.m. If you haven’t already established a morning routine by the time your kids reach elementary school, this is a good age range to get one started.
Teenagers do well with nine or so hours of sleep, and can go to bed at any point that will allow them to sleep at least nine hours a night.
6. Turn Down the Thermostat
No matter how hot it is outside, we all sleep better when it’s cool indoors. As we get tired, we lose some of our core heat, which helps make us feel sleepier. According to research, we sleep best when our bedrooms are between 60 and 67 degrees. Anything warmer than 75 degrees is too warm to sleep well, and temps under 54 degrees have us turning into ice cubes between the sheets.
Make sure you turn the thermostat down at bedtime to ensure the best sleep.
7. Reduce Stimulation
We live in a constantly stimulated world — even as adults, we tend to check our email and social media before we even get out of bed. For kids, the additional stimulation of things like television shows and video games can keep their brains engaged so it becomes difficult to fall asleep.
Make it a point to turn off anything with a screen at least a couple of hours before bed. Spend the time winding down, focusing on reading physical books or just relaxing together.
8. No Water Before Bed
There’s nothing worse than waking up in the middle of the night to a child with a wet bed. You’ve got to do laundry at 3 a.m., find clean, dry clothes and then try to get your little ones settled back into bed after that whole debacle.
Start reducing drinks before bed, and don’t keep water within reach at night to discourage nighttime accidents.
If someone does happen to wet the bed, don’t make a big deal of it. Stay as calm as possible to keep your kids relaxed so they’ll hopefully go back to sleep without too much trouble.
9. Mix up the Monster Spray
Kids get scared of the weirdest things. Thankfully, especially with little kids, it can be easy to put those fears to rest. If they’re scared of monsters, set them up with a stuffed animal to protect them, or a can of “monster spray” — which can be Febreze or water and essential oils with a custom label — to scare away the monsters under the bed or in the closet.
Don’t just scoff at their fears and tell them there’s nothing to be afraid of. Instead, give them the tools to fight their fears themselves. However, make sure you’re always there for them if they’re not quite ready to fight on their own yet.
10. Be Firm, But Kind
The biggest trick to getting your kids to go to bed early is to be firm. Don’t let the whining get to you —stick to your guns and your routine. If they get up after you’ve tucked them in, lead them back to bed and firmly but kindly remind them it is bedtime.
It might take some practice, but repetition is the only thing that will make your bedtime routine work. A few sleepless nights are worth it for a well-established routine!