There are many challenging aspects of parenthood, and learning how to get kids to sleep is undoubtedly one of the toughest. Whether your toddler who used to sleep blissfully now wakes at night, or you’re like me, and you have to two terrible sleepers, you’ll inevitably struggle to get them to drift off at some point.
Luckily, the restlessness won’t last forever—and someday you’ll miss those middle-of-the-night cuddles. In the meantime, here are some tips on how to help your kids get enough rest naturally.
How Much Sleep They Really Need
Knowing how much sleep kids need is your first step to figuring out how to encourage them to get it. The National Sleep Foundation recently outlined new guidelines on sleep needs by age:
- Up to 3 months: 14 to 17 hours
- 4 to 11 months: 12 to 15 hours
- 1 to 2 years: 11 to 14 hours
- 3 to 5 years: 10 to 13 hours
- 6 to 13 years: 9 to 11 hours
Keep in mind these guidelines include naps in daily totals, so if your child takes shorter or longer naps than average, it can affect how much sleep he or she will get at night. Older kids also wake more often in the middle of the night, indicating they’ve gotten too much daytime sleep and that it’s it time to shorten or drop these midday snoozes.
What Not to Lose Sleep Over
Remember, every child is different. As a parent, you know your child best and can look for clues to decide if your little one is getting enough shuteye. If your child is getting the right amount but still waking tired or lagging through the day, it may be a sign that he or she needs more sleep than the recommended hours. On the other hand, a child who doesn’t sleep as much but is otherwise energetic and healthy isn’t a reason to stress over them getting too little.
Other factors can also contribute to changes in sleep patterns. Being sick, teething, learning how to walk and talk, separation anxiety, and going through a growth spurt are all childhood moments that can affect sleep. If your little one is suddenly sleeping less or more than before, ask yourself if there are any similar factors to blame.
How to Get Kids to Sleep
Getting enough sleep is important to a child’s physical and mental development. A lack of rest can lead to mood swings and problems communicating or paying attention, according to the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, but try explaining that to a 6-month-old who wakes up to practice crawling at 2 a.m. Even when kids are old enough to understand the need for sleep, it can still be tricky to get them off to dreamland. Sadly there’s no one-size-fits-all method to get kids to fall asleep. The good news is there are a lot of natural things you can do to help prepare your little one for bedtime.
Young kids thrive on predictability, and when you set up nightly sleep cues it can help them wind down for bed more easily. With both my children, our bedtime routine consists of a relaxing bath before bed. And although it helps my little ones unwind, a daily bath can be harsh on delicate baby skin. So I always use a mild, natural baby wash followed by a gentle natural lotion like the Tom’s of Maine Baby line.
Reading, Bathing, and White Noise
As kids grow older, routines will change. Now 6, my daughter gets dressed on her own, but we still dim the lights and read books together. Here are some things you can try to help your kids fall asleep naturally:
- Maintain a set bedtime and try not to deviate from it too much.
- Give your child a relaxing bath with a gentle natural baby wash.
- Avoid screen time before bed.
- Make sure your child has a balanced meal for dinner—not too light or too heavy. Avoid foods high in sugar by the evening.
- Make your child’s room conducive to sleep. Maintain a steady temperature, keep the lights low as you get ready for bed, and make sure there’s no TV on nearby. Younger babies may also benefit from having some type of white noise to help lull them to sleep.
- Read books together, but make sure to pick ones that aren’t too stimulating.
No matter what your routine includes, the important thing is to maintain a quiet and relaxed atmosphere before bedtime and to repeat the same steps every night. What’s bedtime like at your house? What simple remedies work for you? Let us know on Twitter @TomsofMaine.
Image source: Sher Warkentin | Flickr
This article was brought to you by Tom’s of Maine. The views and opinions expressed by the author do not reflect the position of Tom’s of Maine.