There is so much discussion relating to sleep when it comes to babies and toddlers – getting them to sleep, helping them stay asleep, making sure they nap, making sure they get enough sleep at night, the list goes on! Of course, at Good Night Sleep Site, we love when new parents are so focused on ensuring healthy sleep habits and sleep routines, but for some reason, the emphasize and the prioritization of sleep sometimes dissipates as children get older.
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Unfortunately, once kids are out of the preschool years, sleep issues don’t automatically go away. In some cases, kids who never learned strong sleep skills as babies and toddlers are still struggling with sleep. In other cases, kids who were great sleepers can suddenly be faced with sleep issues too. What’s interesting though, is that even though many adults struggle with sleep, parents can be quick to assume that their child could actually ‘just go to sleep’ and not have the sleep problems they’re having. In reality, that’s hardly ever the case. If your child has been struggling for more than a week, then they likely need some assistance in finding their way back to better sleep.
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Two Big Issues That Make It Hard For Kids To Fall Asleep
To start, take a deep breath. As a parent, we know it can be frustrating when bedtime doesn’t go smoothly and as a result your kids are up later and later. Which means you’re up later and later too. And after a busy day, finding the patience and the energy left to help your kid with their bedtime struggles can be very challenging. So, let’s break down the two big buckets that are often the cause of not being able to sleep at night and how you can help find some solutions that will make life better for both you and your child.
As kids get older, their world becomes much bigger. They have bigger emotions, bigger thoughts, and much more information to process. As their lives become more complex, they have more relationships, more life changes and more experiences that can absolutely influence whether they’re sleeping well or not.
If you want bedtime to be less drawn out and less stressful, invest in a better build up to bedtime. You need to allow your kids some actual wind down time, and for those kids that are experts at making up excuses to draw out bedtime, they’re actually trying to express their need for connection time with you. Having their love and attachment tank full before bed is key when it comes to a stalling free bedtime.
Try at least 15 or 20 minutes of tech-free time to do some quiet activities and connect with your kids. We’ve listed some ideas below:
- Colour together.
- Listen to music from a bedtime playlist.
- Play a card game.
- Work on a puzzle.
- Read together (for older kids this can be as simple as each reading your own book next to each other).
Keep space open during the day to talk with your kids about things that might be bothering them or anything they are struggling with such as school work or trouble with friends. When you make time to talk about these things during the day, they will be less likely to carry them into bedtime.
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Busy Brains, Busy Bodies
For some kids, the amount of energy they have at night, both mentally and physically can make it really hard to wind down and go to sleep. In most cases, they aren’t sure how to relax and don’t have the tools to calm themselves down in order to welcome sleep.
Here are some tools you can teach active kids to help them wind down at night:
- Meditation and mindfulness. There are tons of resources specifically for kids like the book Sitting Still Like A Frog by Eline Snel.
- Yoga poses for sleep.
- Breathing exercises.
In this case, it’s extremely important to allow your child the time to wind down before bed. If you know they have a hard time getting their mind and body into a calmer state, you can’t expect them to accomplish that in five to ten minutes and then be ready for sleep. If you’re expectations are unrealistic, you’ll only add stress to their attempt to be calm. In most cases, they really are trying and will start to get upset if they feel like you think it’s their fault or that they aren’t trying hard enough.
Putting Time In Now Means Time Back Later
We know what you’re thinking. Who has the time to include more elements into bedtime after a busy night of homework, sports or other activities? It can seem daunting, but if you put the time in BEFORE bedtime, you’ll actually end up shortening the time it takes for your children to fall asleep once they’re in bed. So, if you currently spend 30 minutes going up and down the stairs addressing all their spontaneous emergency needs, wouldn’t you rather spend that 30 minutes purposefully?
Start by looking at your current bedtime routine and determine what you can tweak to help your kids wind down and connect with you. Whether you find that breathing exercises or reading together helps your child take the edge off their day, we promise that exploring how to create a better bedtime routine for your kids will be worth it. As your child continues to age, remember that it will always be important for them to practice good sleep hygiene. Keep talking about it at home as a way to help them remember that sleep is an important part of good health.