There’s no hell quite like a screaming, tired, refusing to sleep child. Infants don’t care what you want, and don’t know how to get what they want. Toddlers are committed to testing your sanity. Preschoolers are an excited bunch, newly exposed to everything and not wanting to miss anything. And school-age kids spend most of their waking lives surrounded by all sorts of people and relish the private time in their rooms at night, making sense of the pressures of their day, letting their imaginations run wild, or indulging in some rule-breaking. And look, we know the only real reason you want your kids in bed is so you can finally relax. But it turns out there are plenty of good reasons for them to sleep, too. The problem is, no matter the age, all kids (like all adults) need that precious sleep period to restore, rejuvenate, and prepare for doing it all over again. But don’t despair! Short of brandy in a sippy cup (for you or them), there are some things you can do to ease the trip to dreamland.
Watch the late-night snacks.
Just like with grownups, sleep is easier when we give the digestive system time to do its work before the body shuts down in bed. Don’t go sending them to bed hungry, but don’t fill them up right before either. If dinner wasn’t quite enough to feed their growing little bodies, any additional snacks should be had well before bedtime. Lead with healthy options like cut veggies or whole grain crackers, and keep the sweets locked up tight. Make dessert special and let the kids get excited about it by keeping this extra treat to one night a week.
Say no to screens.
An iPad is a great babysitter in a pinch when all you want is to finish the dishes, but it’s a lousy tool for getting the kids to bed. Staring at that blue light before bed fires up their brains (yours too, put it down) and makes getting to those vital REM sleep cycles really tough. Focus on analog entertainment and activities before bed that strike a balance between soothing and stimulating.
They bounce on couches, they bounce off walls, they make your brain bounce around until you’re dizzy. Despite boundless energy, there are some easy things you can do with your kids to set a quieter mood pre-bedtime. Start to turn the lights down around the house, turn off the tv, put on some mellow tunes, take a bath. You know the drill — the things that help you get in the mood for some sleep are going to help them get there too.
When creating a chill vibe isn’t enough to pull them down off the curtains, take an active approach and circle round for some kiddie yoga. By leading your kids in some basic stretching, you can make them aware of their bodies and breathing, and pull a little focus into the moment. Yoga is great for calming a busy brain and slowing down an active body, and it’s proven wonders for crazy kids too.
There’s no greater contribution to your kiddo’s future than spending twenty minutes with a good story before bed each night. They cherish the quiet time with their parents and their brains light up with new words, new worlds, and new ways of thinking. While you run the risk of triggering some sort of nighttime genius (boo hoo), you’re also reinforcing the tranquility and quiet of bedtime. Picture books are great for the tots and chapter books keep the older kids leaning in night after night. And while your trashy romance novels are perfect on a kindle or iPad, stick to good old fashioned paper books with the kids. Devices can become a distraction, especially if they know their favorite Daniel Tiger game is one swipe or click away from that story you’re reading.
The right bed.
Kids usually get the short end of the quality mattress stick, as there just aren’t a lot of options out there. But, for the older kids, a good mattress can make a big difference in the kind of sleep they’re getting. When you’re ready to move away from the plastic sheets and rock-hard foam plank, look for twin mattresses made from high quality, natural materials that are built to last. At Sleep365, we make luxurious yet affordable mattresses that you won’t replace until they’re leaving for college, and by then you can just sell their stuff and start designing your dream library/craft room/cocktail lounge.
Don’t lose sleep over it.
Everyone’s different. Different body types, sleep styles, sleep issues, sleep needs. And just like all of us different adults, every kid is different too. Listening to your kids, setting the right tone, and consistently following a routine will help them to get more of the good sleep they need… and get you more of the quiet time you deserve.