Oh, sleep, that long forgotten noun in a world fuelled by coffee and chocolate! If you can’t remember the last time you had a full 8 hours sleep a night then worry not, we have compiled some hints and tips to get your little devils angels to sleep through the night.
Children thrive on routine, so introducing a bedtime routine is a great way prepare your child for a night of uninterrupted sleep. Start with a fun bath time, allowing them time to burn off any excess energy they may still have! Then start to wind down. For little ones this may be a baby massage, or for older children, try reading a book or singing a calming lullaby together. Once your child is quiet and relaxed, take them up to bed and give them a kiss goodnight, tuck them in and tell them you will see them in the morning. If you continue to follow this routine every night, your little one will (hopefully) start to understand that this routine signals bedtime.
Some children may wake up in the night, and seeing they are in complete darkness, become scared. Try leaving a hall light on and the door slightly ajar, so that a crack of light fills their room. Or if that is not practical, invest in a nightlight. There are lots on the market, and some even incorporate a training clock, that teaches your children to stay in bed for longer in the morning – heaven!
Just when you think you have sleep nailed, it’s time to change your little one from a cot to a bed. Some children take to this like a duck to water (or a toddler to ball pit!) but others find that their new-found freedom is just too good to ignore, and are up and down like yo-yos through the night. The key is to be consistent. If your child does get out of bed, calmly and quietly take them back into their room and tuck them in. Repeat this process every time they get up, making it as boring as possible to discourage your little one from doing it again. You may also want to use the bedroom door as a tool. Often, children like to have their bedroom door slightly ajar at night. So, when your toddler gets up from bed tell them that their door will be shut. If after 1 to 2 minutes they are still in bed then you open the door again, quietly praising them. If they get out of bed again, start the process over. Finally, reward charts, the saviour for all parenting challenges. Every time your child stays in bed for the night, add a sticker to their chart. After they have collected a certain number of stickers, they can get a bigger reward, sweeties or a trip somewhere fun.
When your child hits the age of around 3, they may start to experience nightmares or night terrors. These are incredibly distressing for both them and you. If your child does wake in the night, comfort them and talk to them about their nightmare, assuring them that it was just a dream. However, there are a few preventative steps you may be able to take. If the nightmare is based on monsters, you can create a ‘monster spray’, made from an old spray bottle filled with water. Before your child goes to bed, get them to spray the places in their room that monsters may be hiding, getting rid of them for good. Or an object that comforts and assures them, like a favourite teddy bear or blanket, might sooth and relax them when they wake from a nightmare, allowing them to drift back to sleep.