Mama Needs Sleep: The Importance of Getting Your Kids to Sleep Well
In addition to being an Early Childhood Educator, Elaine is also the Australasia Regional Director of the International Association of Professional Sleep Consultants. She’s an all-around parenting cheerleader, who is well-versed in the importance of maintaining sleep routines for your children from birth into their teenage years.
Most sleep-deprived parents of littles aged two and younger can’t imagine the whole relentless cycle of fighting over bedtime routines beginning again when their children reach their teenage years. Despite the years separating those ages, these development stages share many parallels. Both the toddler years and teenage years are hugely formative periods, as the brain and body experience significant development.
Today, we’ll explore some of what was shared on the importance of establishing bedtime routines for both toddlers and teens.
Parents of toddlers face many common issues when trying to get their children to sleep. Here are some of the most troublesome.
Everyone has their platonic ideal of a bedtime routine that should only take 45-60 minutes. Unfortunately, it can sometimes take up to four hours for some parents to get their toddlers to sleep. This can be due to delay tactics, or confusion because parents are time-poor, as many families are overworked and need to tend to other siblings.
Often, your toddler will refuse to sleep simply because they want more time with you. For exhausted parents who just want to sleep themselves, the result is often a rushed bedtime routine, which can cause the opposite reaction from clever toddlers who like to push boundaries.
As much we begrudge the routine and monotony of going through these steps day in and day out, babies and toddlers thrive on routines. When their bedtime routine is not consistent, they become confused. Then, they will try and seek out the familiar, until they discover a way to have their parents there with them more often.
As parents, it’s important to remember that relenting to toddler requests or demands only results in toddlers becoming confused by mixed messaging. They are clever at working out what worked and will remember that if they screamed long enough, it resulted in their parents staying with them longer. It won’t take long until they try it again.
Lack of Wind Down
Training your baby’s brain to understand that sleep and rest time approaches requires a solid routine. This enables them to settle down for bed each day in a calmer, smoother way.
6 Easy Tips to Help Your Toddler Sleep Well
- Get outside if possible
The colours green and blue are very equalizing for a toddler’s emotions. If you can, take them outside to kick a ball or just lie on a picnic blanket. Even just 15 minutes of relaxed outdoor time will help them settle into sleep.
- Calm bath time
Bath time should not be playtime. It should still be enjoyable, but the goal should be to keep the mood light and calm. If a parent comes home during bath time, they should do their best to avoid overexciting their toddler before bed.
- Wind down
Winding down at the TV is not a great idea. Instead, begin the wind-down process after dinner. The process of bath time to bedtime should only take 30-40 minutes.
- Stories and space associations
Get cosy and settle them in their bed by lying next to them. Spend the next 10 minutes quietly reading. This works so much better than sitting in a chair in a dim or dark room.
- Soothing music or white noise
Have a sleep song or phrase, with a set number of good night kisses. Allow toddlers to self-settle by reassuring them that they will see you again soon. Don’t allow their pleading or your guilt to drag out the bedtime routine.
A balanced diet for toddlers consists of one-third healthy fats, one-third protein, and one-third carbohydrates (which often comes from fruit). This diet, as well as sleep-inducing foods like sardines, salmon, bananas, and white meats like chicken and turkey can help your toddler sleep better.
Having an earlier dinner or providing them their main meal at lunchtime followed by a light supper will also help them go down to sleep easier at night.
For teens, the transition to adulthood brings important changes that affect emotions, personality, social and family life, and academics. Sleep is essential during this time. The brain and body are working behind the scenes to allow teens to be at their best.
Unfortunately, research indicates that many teens get far less sleep than they need.
Both the National Sleep Foundation and the American Academy of Sleep Medicine agree that teens need between 8 and 10 hours of sleep per night. Getting the recommended amount of sleep can help teens maintain their physical health, emotional well-being, and school performance.
10 Easy Tips to Help Teens Sleep Better
- Turn off all screens and electronics 60 minutes before bed
- Buy an alarm clock, so there’s no need to have devices in the bedroom overnight
- Read a chapter of your favourite novel
- Listen to a relaxing playlist
- Take a long hot shower or bath
- Try some deep breathing or a mindfulness activity
- If you need a short nap, take one, but never after 3 pm
- Only use the bed for sleeping – try to avoid using it for homework, socializing, or hobbies
- Get exercise during the day
- Focus on waking up at the same time every day
5 Key Benefits of Restful Sleep for Both Teens and Toddlers
Most of our learning occurs in the first two or three years of our lives, setting up the foundations of everything we will learn for the rest of our lives. We build on that as we grow, hitting another major formative period between the tween and teenage years.
During both periods of growth, sleep is essential, and helps to:
- Maintain a healthy body.
- Keep their immune system working well.
- Maintain good social, emotional, and mental health.
- Boost their energy levels, learning, and concentration.
- Improve long-term memory performance.
Just as your devices need recharging, so does your brain. The value of a good night’s sleep for teens and tweens is critical to keeping up a positive outlook and bravely facing the challenges of each day.
Your teens must learn how to organize and understand their schedule, so they can do everything they need to do without sacrificing their sleep. It’s also important for both parents and teens to understand that their natural body clock will change. Melatonin production in the brain is delayed from around 8 pm until 11 pm, starting around the age of 12. It will continue to be released until past sunrise. If your child can tire themselves out naturally with physical activities, they will likely sleep better at night.
More information on establishing good sleep routines can be found here.