Sleeping through the night can feel like such a milestone, especially if you’ve been getting fragmented sleep for months on end. Unfortunately, night waking doesn’t always disappear with infancy. Instead, sleep patterns and behaviors respond to routines, schedules, and healthy sleep habits, which gives you, as the parent, some ability to influence your child’s ability to sleep through the night. Keep reading to get our top five sleep improvement tips.
1. Consistency is Your Friend
The human body relies on predictable patterns of behavior to time the sleep cycle. A consistent bedtime uses that fact to your advantage. The key is that those patterns have to be repeated every day, sometimes for weeks, before the brain fully adjusts and responds. The consistency of a bedtime can translate to less nighttime wakings because it means your child’s sleep hormone levels are where they should be both at the start, middle, and end of the night.
2. Schedules Save Bedtime
To fully support that bedtime, you absolutely need a bedtime routine. Many children have a hard time transitioning from an alert state to asleep. A routine gives them a chance to bring their energy levels down in preparation for sleep. That process also provides time for their sleep hormone levels to regulate and release at the same time every day. The routine can be simple, like changing into pajamas, brushing teeth, and listening to a story. It can also be more complex with picking up toys and taking a warm bath before crawling into bed. You have the flexibility to decide what works for you and your child’s schedule.
3. Kids Need Comfort
Now that you’re past the falling asleep part, you have to decide what to do during nighttime wake-ups. Putting yourself back to sleep at night is a learned skill, and some children struggle with it. One way to help is to address physical and emotional comfort issues.
The easiest issues to take on are physical. Check the mattress to make sure it’s supportive. Children, with their low body weights, can sometimes be uncomfortable on a mattress that’s too firm, or your child could be waking because she’s getting poked by a mattress tag or sticker all night long. The room should also be cool, somewhere between 60 to 68 degrees usually does the trick, and try to make it as dark as possible. Night lights are fine, but opt for a motion-activated model that won’t wake your child during the night.
4. Remove Screens from the Bedroom
Televisions, tablets, or phones in the bedroom can disrupt your child’s sleep in two ways. First of all, electronic devices emit light on the blue spectrum which can suppress sleep hormones. Using any of these devices before bed can delay the start of the sleep cycle. Second, having these devices in the bedroom can not only be a source of blue spectrum light, but also cause a temptation that can be hard to ignore. Your child may be too young to turn on the television, but it’s still a distraction that can lead to wakefulness.
5. Teach Them to Fall Asleep on Their Own
You can start to teach your child to fall asleep on her own while she’s still in infancy. Lay your baby down when she’s almost asleep rather than fully asleep. Or lay her down in her crib while you sing softly or read a book to her until her eyelids close. If she can learn to quiet herself at bedtime, she can learn to self soothe herself back to sleep during the night too.
For older children, this can be a bit trickier. If your child comes out of her room, quietly take her back without making a fuss. Keep nighttime wakings quiet and boring. It’s not playtime or special cuddle time because who wants to go to sleep when that’s the reward? Every time your child comes out of her room, take her back. Don’t give in, or you’ll be going through the whole process over and over again.
Sleeping through the night is more of a challenge for some children than others. But with consistency in effort and technique, you can help your child learn to handle nighttime waking in a stride. Before you know it, you’ll all be getting better sleep.