How to help your child get to sleep

Posted by iChild, September 25, 2019 2:13 PM

By Nathalie Davis of Cuckooland

Getting your child to sleep can be challenging. Especially as the summer holidays draw to an end, many of us will find ourselves on the receiving end of a daily battle to get the kids to go to bed and to settle down.

But the importance of a sleep routine cannot be underestimated. Sleep is essential to a child’s physical and mental development, allowing them to recover from the day they’ve had and prepare for the day to come. Missing out on sleep can set them up for a bad morning and mean they’re less attentive in school or simply less able to learn and enjoy new things.

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How much sleep do growing children need?

While many of us would agree that the idea of sleeping all day would be absolute bliss (!), the reality is that the older we get, the less sleep we need. The same is true for children, so what your child needs when they’re born will change as they grow.

Generally speaking, your child should be aiming for this much sleep:

  • 1-4 weeks; your baby needs 12-16 hours per day. This won’t necessarily happen within a set routine, though if possible, try to get them down for a regular ‘main sleep’ to start building that routine for the future
  • 1-12 months; your little one needs around 14-15 hours of sleep. This will likely still be quite sporadic, but that ‘main sleep’ should be providing them a semblance of routine the older they get.
  • Toddlers; 12-14 hours. Even as they grow beyond a year of age, your baby still needs plenty of sleep because they’re still developing so much. Try to incorporate plenty of naps into their routine (especially if they’re not keen for longer sleeps yet).
  • 3-6 years; by this point, your child needs around 11-12 hours sleep per night. Their sleeping routine should also be much better defined by now, though some younger ones might still need a nap during the day.
  • 7-12 years; your child will need between 9-12 hours of sleep. Bedtimes should be regular by now and, where possible, try to discourage the use of technology before bedtime as this can often lead to them staying awake a bit later than they should.

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Setting a bedtime routine

Routine is so important to your child getting the sleep they need. If bedtimes are irregular or sporadic, it can throw off the child’s expectations as well as their natural body clock, so it’s really worth investing in a good sleep routine as early as possible.

And setting that bedtime routine needn’t be too difficult. While some children will like to say they’re not tired, the reality is that all children need their sleep so, with the right sleep timetable, they can get that.

Daytime routines

The first step to a good bedtime routine is to have a good daytime routine.

One of the reasons children don’t want to go to sleep is that they haven’t spent enough time with you during the day or they haven’t been able to do the things they want to do. So make time for ‘quality time’ (hard as it is in these busy times) - not only will it wear them out, they won’t feel like they’re missing out when the time comes to go to sleep.

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Sleep hygiene

It’s important that the bedroom be a relaxing environment for your child. Though the choice of whether or not to allow technology in the room is up to you, it is worth considering putting a time limit on when that tech can be used, so your child can have a good amount of non-screen time before they try to sleep.

According to research, as many as six million parents are facing a daily battle over the use of technology at bedtime, so it’s best to avoid this from as early on as possible!

Avoid the ‘no’ trap

This one’s a classic Supernanny tactic, but it works!

Essentially, you want to avoid giving the child the option to say no.

“Are you ready for bed yet?”
“Do you want to go to bed?”
“Is it bedtime?”

All these things give your child the option to say ‘no’, and that often causes conflict.

Instead, ask questions like “what story would you like me to read you before bed tonight?”,  “which pyjamas do you want to wear?” or “which lullaby shall we sing?”.

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The role of music in sleep - modern lullabies

The role of music in getting us to sleep is well understood, with lullabies like Rock-a-Bye-Baby and Twinkle Twinkle Little Star having persisted across the decades.

And it’s for good reason, too! The calming effects of a lullaby help your child feel soothed and can rock them gently to sleep.

You needn’t rely on the old classics, though; new scientific research has revealed the formula for a perfect lullaby and applied it to more modern music, with artists such as Taylor Swift, U2 and even rapper Stormzy coming out as perfect modern lullabies to put your child to sleep.

How do you know if your child is getting enough sleep?

There are various signs that will let you know if your child is getting enough sleep.

Crankiness

Crankiness is common among kids, even if they have had enough sleep - but it shouldn’t persist. If you feel like your child is more cranky or agitated than the average child, it may be that they’re not getting enough sleep.

Night waking

It’s perfectly normal and expected that your child will wake up during the night during the first year of their development. However, if that continues as they get older, it may indicate that their sleep routine needs a review.

Fatigue and napping

It may sound obvious, but if your child generally looks tired and wants to nap frequently, they may not be getting enough sleep. Speak to teachers and carers about how much sleep your child is getting when they’re not with you to get a better idea of how much they’re sleeping.

By Nathalie Davis, Director at Cuckooland

Cuckoolands is a kids' beds retailer that specialises in quirky and unique bed designs. They've worked with a wide range of sleep experts and parents (as well as being parents themselves). We thank them for offering us this helpful blog.

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