Wriggly little legs and sharp elbows creeping into our beds, late night tempers, tired tears, and tantrums – if any or all of this sounds familiar, it looks like you might be one of the thousands of families suffering from stressful bedtimes.
Whether your little one struggles with night terrors or you’re trying to help a toddler transition to sleeping on their own, a fraught bedtime leaves everyone feeling tired and grouchy. See if you can turn things around with our guide to a stress-free bedtime.
We say it a lot but routine is so important for children, especially when it comes to bedtime. Having a set routine in place that you follow every night will mean that your little ones will know exactly what to expect and how to behave when the time for bed comes around. Carrying out the same daily habits will also mean that your children start to automatically relax at a set time each night, leaving them calm and ready to sleep.
When putting together any bedtime routine, remember to eradicate any bad habits that are more likely to leave little minds wound up than calmed down. Avoid TVs and computers in the hour leading up to bedtime and don’t let them play on any devices either. Gadgets like these use blue light that tricks our brain into thinking it’s daytime, leaving us wide awake and minimising the good effects of any sleep we might get. Overexcited play or eating too much before bed can also make it harder to get to sleep. Instead, try to incorporate good sleeping habits into your routine; treat little ones to a warm bath, soothing lighting, and a relaxing bedtime story to help them get into the right frame of mind.
It’s also important to make sure your child has no excuse to keep getting out bed! Being hungry and thirsty or needing the toilet are some of the main excuses children use so nip these in the bud with a quick, healthy snack before bedtime, a glass of water by the bed, and a toilet visit just before they get tucked in.
The Easy Way or the Hard Way
If your child still has trouble getting to sleep or refuses to stay in their room, you’ll need to work out which bedtime strategy works best. To start with, you can try sitting with them as they sleep and then gradually moving further and further away from the bed until they’re able to get to sleep without you in the room. If they’re still reliant on you, put them into bed and then promise to (and do) check up on them every five, then ten, then 15 minutes. If all this still doesn’t work, you might need to go bad cop and start putting them back into bed repeatedly without saying anything until they get the message. This can be difficult for both parent and child but will do the trick as a last resort.