Is it Too Late to Change the Way My Child Sleeps?
You may think that just because your child is older that it's too late to work on their sleep. That you've missed the boat in helping them learn great sleep habits. That is not true! In fact, there are so many things that can be done to improve sleep habits in older children. Through the years we have learned so much by helping families with their child’s sleep from newborn through to school age.
Teaching them how to fall asleep independently and to sleep through the night in their own bed does take work, however, focusing on not only sleep but their emotional well-being is an approach that allows the child to still feel connected to their parents while adjusting to the new changes with confidence.
When working with children over the age of 2 years old, there are numerous factors that can contribute to sleep challenges including: fears and anxieties, nutrition, daycare, time spent with mom and dad and so much more. Using an approach that takes into consideration all of these aspects can make the process much easier on you and your child.
A great night’s sleep starts in an environment that is set up for healthy sleep. Blackout curtains can be used to cover the windows, which can really help at bedtime when the sun is still up as well as during nap time and when the sun is peeking through the window in the early morning hours.
If your child is a light sleeper, shares a room or the bedrooms are really close together, you can use a sound machine to help block out those extra sounds. This will help even an older child sleep a little more soundly.
Also be mindful of how stimulating and distracting the sleep environment is. Lots of toys in the room could mean playtime as opposed to sleep time for your little one and you may find them stalling or wanting to play with their toys instead.
Your child’s day to day schedule will have a huge impact on how they are sleeping. It happens in a lot of families. Life gets so busy and sleep kind of gets in the way. After school activities tend to start later in the evening to allow parents the chance to get home and settled after work, which can lead to much later bedtimes. A night or two a week would be manageable for some children however, when your child is going to bed too late 3 or 4 nights a week and on the weekend, it can lead to them losing precious sleep every single night.
You want to allow your child the opportunity to get a full night’s sleep. If your child has to be up every day for school or daycare at 6:30am, you will want to ensure that they are going to bed at the right time so that they are getting adequate overnight sleep. Count back the hours they need to find the optimal bedtime for their age group. To find out how much sleep your child should be getting, we've created a chart to help.
This includes weekends! We know it seems dreadful but keeping as close to the same schedule on the weekend will help to keep the circadian rhythm organized while protecting the weekday schedule. We are definitely a little more lenient on the weekends when it comes to our schedule with our own older children but we still wake them early on Sunday morning to allow them to be tired and cranky at home on Sunday instead of at school when they are trying to learn on Monday.
A relaxing, consistent routine before bed for all children is really important. Yes, they need to brush their teeth, change into their pj’s, however, reading a story and spending a few minutes connecting is an integral part in allowing them the time to decompress after a busy day.
Having a consistent routine that includes all of the extras like sips of water, bathroom breaks, extra hugs and kisses can also reduce the bedtime stalling. If you know that your child likes 2 drinks of water before bed, make time in the routine for those water breaks instead of waiting until the lights are out and then having to deal with the in and out of bed and stalling.
One of the most important times during the day when your child needs that one on one connection is before bed. Spending time with your child either snuggled in the chair or lying in bed with them for 15 minutes or so will allow them the opportunity they need to connect on an emotional level. This might very well be the time that your child will choose to talk about their day. Be there to listen, offer support but try not to lead the conversation. This is their time to chat and vent.
Mind relaxing activities such as meditation and yoga can be a fantastic addition to your child’s nightly routine.
Of all the light colours possible blue light is the worst light for sleep. It interferes with the body’s production of melatonin, a hormone our body naturally produces to help us fall asleep and stay asleep. It can also affect their ability to get into that deep restorative sleep that they need to ensure they are at their best for learning the next day.
Blue light is found in electronics (TV’s, computers, tablets, phones) night lights and unfortunately, a lot of child based sleep products. Children and adults should avoid blue light for at least an hour before bedtime. Yes, a whole hour, sometimes two depending on the child!
This one may be difficult for some families but it will make a difference for a child's sleep habits.
These are all some of the beginning steps to developing healthy sleep habits for children of all ages. These aspects can be worked on before changing the way your child falls asleep. Healthy sleep habits carry a child through to adulthood.