Bedtime. It’s like a magic word that makes parents feel a huge flood of relief and kids scream in unison “Noooo!”. Regardless of your feelings toward bedtime I think we can all agree that it’s a necessary and important part of daily life. Today I’m partnering with my friends at Children’s Mercy Hospital to bring you 5 tips for improving kids sleep!
My oldest started kindergarten last week and I’m still in shock! We knew that this change would have an adjustment period and we had been told that the first month would be rough with how tired he would be but WOW. All I can say is that 7 hours a day at school is exhausting for our little guy and when he gets home he melts down at the smallest things. He’s throwing attitude around like crazy and our evenings for the last week have been exhausting for everyone. I know it will get better as he gets adjusted to the rigorous school day and I know our consistent bedtime routine will help. He needs all the sleep he can get!
Our daughter who is a year and half younger than the Kindergartener has also had a rough adjustment to him being gone all day. Her preschool doesn’t start for another week and she is so bored during the day and constantly asking when brother gets home, which just brings melt downs from both of them when he doesn’t want to play princesses when he gets home from school. phew, like I said it’s an adjustment period. The one thing I’ve realized is that we all need more sleep.
Every morning big brother giving sister a hug before he jumps on the bus.
5 Tips for Improving Kids Sleep
1. Get ENOUGH sleep
Make sure your child is getting enough sleep for their age. Adults needs 7-9 hours, 13-17 year olds need 9-10 hours, 5-12 year olds need 10-11 hours, and 3-5 year olds need 11-13 hours. Do the math, how many hours are your children getting? We’ll talk more about how to get more sleep in the next few tips, but knowing how much they need vs. how much they are getting is the 1st step. Not sure why it’s so important to get the recommended amount of sleep? Check out Sleep Matters from the experts at Children’s Mercy HERE.
2. Create a Bedtime Routine and Stick To It
Kids love consistency, they can count on it and it’s good for them. A bedtime routine that is consistently the same night after night provides comfort for kids. We start our routine 1 hour before bedtime, this way no one is rushed and it’s a happy time for the kids. We start with bath, did you know that a warm bath actually stimulates sleep? I didn’t! This is what Children’s Mercy says:
“A warm bath increases your core body temperature temporarily, then as you retire for the night, your body temperature drops a greater degree triggering sleep. Consider adding lavender essential oil to the bath water – this is a relaxing aromatherapy.”
Next we read scriptures and say prayer as a family in the living room, then we move into their bedroom and they each get to pick a bedtime book to read and then brush their teeth and get into bed. During this hour there is lots of playing and running around, it’s not complicated, just a simple outline that happens every single night. Our kids are 4 and 5, the routine starts at 7:00 and they are in bed at 8:00 every night. Let your kids help with making choices about the routine, ask them what order they would like to do things in, maybe even make a chart or write down the order and place it where everyone can see it. I have found that when kids are involved in making changes they are much more likely to take ownership and participate with minimal complaining. Let’s be honest there is always some complaining.
If your kids need more sleep move up their bedtime in small increments until you get to the place you want. I’m guessing if they are used to going to bed at 9 switching it to 8 right away problem won’t work so just move it up by 15 or 20 minutes every night for a few nights. Children’s Mercy also says:
“If you go to bed at the same time every night, you are training your body to know when it should be ready to sleep.”
I’ve found that no matter what time my kids go to bed they get up at the same time every morning, Max is an early riser 6:00 am and he’s up, June typically sleeps till 7. If they end up going to bed at 9:00 because grandparents are in town or there is some type event we go to they don’t adjust and sleep in, they are just cranky the next day. Knowing that we are pretty vigilant about bedtime even on the weekends, of course we make some exceptions but they are not frequent.
3. Remove Stimulants
Children’s Mercy recommends turning off screens 1-2 hours before bedtime and avoiding caffeinated drinks after 2pm. I know I read recently that the light from screens stimulates your brain- not what we want when our little ones needs to shut off their brain and sleep! This is a simple tip but I know just how hard that can be, have your kids read books, play with toys or color or draw in the time leading up to bedtime instead of playing on a tablet or watching a show.
4. Create a Good Sleep Environment
Get a box fan. yep a $20 box fan will do wonders for everyone, the white noise is calming and it blocks out other noises that might wake kids up. We have one in our room too, so it’s not just for kids! One of the best mom tricks I know. 🙂 My kids don’t like their room to be pitch dark but I don’t want it to be too bright either, I really like the small little plug in night lights like the one in my photo that just light up a small area. My kids also have special blankets that they love and my daughter alway sleeps with a stuffed animal or four.
5. Encourage Happy Thoughts
It was about a year and half ago that Max had his first scary dream. It’s just a part of childhood (and adulthood for that matter!) that kids will have bad dreams. At one point he would get into bed and then start crying because he was scared that he would go to sleep and have a scary dream. To remedy this we would say a prayer and then we would list “happy thoughts” together. I would start by saying “playing with dad, having fun at school, playing with star wars toys…” and he would add in a few more. We still do this every so often to give them something happy to think about as they fall asleep.
If your child needs extra help with sleep you might want to visit the Sleep Lab at Children’s Mercy. Check it out HERE or check out THIS flyer for more strategies for improving sleep.
What struggles have you had with your kids’ sleep? What things do you do to make bedtime easier? I’d love to hear in the comments or on social use #CMHmoms with your ideas! I love all the resources Children’s Mercy offers! Be sure to follow them on Facebook and Twitter!