I’m here to help. Unfortunately I must admit that I was definitely one of those troublesome kids who refused to stay in bed at night. Although this was quite a few years ago, I can still recall my insistence on wanting to stay awake and my parents’ even more enthusiastic insistence that I stay in bed. After consulting with numerous doctors on the issue, as well as other parents, and a long road of trying different tricks and techniques, my sleep-deprived mom and dad finally succeeded in getting me to sleep through the night.
Experts say that there are a number of causes for your little one’s sleepless nights. Explanations for this range from the fact that children are inherently sleepers or non sleepers (such as myself), or that the issue does not come from why your child wakes up, but why your child can’t soothe itself back to sleep, which is usually a result of your child not being able to complete a part of his or her nighttime routine by his or herself.
Whatever the cause, I am sure that there is one thing we can all agree on: that it would be a heck of a lot better if everyone in your household could get a full night’s sleep, and maybe even a good night’s sleep.
Here are a few sleep tips that I’ve picked up for your sleepless kids from both my own experiences and my research on the topic .
Delay gratification and understand the problem—the best way to get young toddlers to fall back to sleep is pretty obvious. Make it apparent to your child that it truly isn’t worth it to call for you in the middle of the night. When you finally do get up to soothe your child back to sleep, be calm but firm. Try not to cuddle or stay too long. Try to examine the room through the eyes of your child. What could be waking your child up? Fix the problem as best you can.
Stand your ground—for older children (ranging from a year and a half to three) make sure that when it’s time for bed, you do not indulge in all of their creative ways to avoid
Make sure your child knows that it isn’t worth it for them to wake you up
sleep. Personally, this is the technique I was best at as a child. I always felt that I was missing out on something, whether it was a movie my parents were watching or a board game that I hadn’t gotten to complete that night. I could always come up with some super important reason to stay awake. The only way I was finally able to stay in bed at night was when my parents were firm and refused to acknowledge my requests. Experts suggest that you indulge in a brief “tuck-in” and get your child what he or she needs, whether it is warm milk or a back rub. Whatever your child asks for, it is useful to indulge in their requests during their nighttime routine, but then be firm that he or she stays in bed for the remainder of the night.
Change their (and your) habits—parents who allow their children to crawl into bed with them at three in the morning certainly have their reasons, but sooner or later your child will see this as an easy way to avoid staying in bed. As children grow dependent on sleeping in your bed with you, it grows harder and harder to keep them in their own beds. One useful way to avoid this issue is to simply switch up your nighttime routine. Experts explain that sleep is flexible, and when you bend your original routine just slightly, it often helps your child focus on something other than what is waking them up. When they do wake to crawl into your bed, try to be firm and turn them back to their own room, addressing the issue of why they got up and explaining that it’s better for everyone if they sleep in their own bed.
Stretch—add some gentle stretching into your child’s nighttime routine. As any parent could attest, kids are busy. They run around all day, participate in a number of activities, and simply seem to always be doing something. By the end of the day, it’s no wonder that a little stretching can help relax their tired muscles, making it easier for them to fall asleep.
Relax—this sleep tip comes directly from my own grandma and works for all ages. While other kids were being told to count sheep as they tried to fall asleep, my grandma gave me a whole other kind of advice. Each night when I slept at her house and couldn’t sleep, she would come up to my room and tell me one thing, “Focus on relaxing your jaw.” No matter what the reason I originally woke up for, this always worked. Although this may not work for everyone, I learned an important lesson from it: that everyone is different and the best thing to do is to try new things and find out what works best for you child. While all of these tips may help in some way or another, until you find that special trick that works for your child, you should just keep looking. You’ll find it eventually.
If you think that your child’s sleep problems are being caused by an old mattress, be sure to read our blog post for some ideas for kid’s mattresses.