Our Top 5 Tips for Getting Your Kids to Sleep

posted: 05/06/15
by: Blythe Copeland

Crazy Things I've Done to Get My Kid to Sleep

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Few parenting moments are more amazing than when your baby finally starts sleeping through the night--but what no one tells you is that it doesn't last. Toddlers, preschoolers, and even older kids can all encounter different sleep issues as they get older, sending you right back to those exhausting newborn days. So if you're at your wit's end (like the "What She Said" moms in this video) these five tips can help improve your kids' sleep habits (and yours, too!). One note: If nothing seems to help your little one, talk to your pediatrician about whether you could be dealing with a sleep disorder (statistics estimate that up to 2 million kids in the U.S. suffer from various sleep issues).

1. Turn off the TV

Staying up late to watch a favorite show isn't a good enough reason to extend bedtime--that's what DVR is for! But limiting your kids' screen time in the hours before bed can also help them fall asleep more easily and sleep more soundly. Research shows that watching tv before bed stimulates little brains right when they should be calming down, and the backlight from television and tablet screens can interfere with natural sleep rhythms.

2. Avoid caffeine

You're probably not giving your kids coffee after dinner (or at all, right?) but caffeine can sneak into plenty of other foods that are on the menu--especially soda and chocolate. Other culprits: hot chocolate, green tea, coffee ice cream, root beer, and energy drinks. Instead, try fresh fruit, vegetables, or low-sugar cereal with milk if your children are requesting a pre-bedtime snack, and offer water as a drink.

3. Address their fears

You know that no monsters are hiding under the bed, but that isn't going to make your nervous little one fall asleep any faster. If bedtime problems in your house are made worse by your kids' fears, give them some tools to stay calm: A favorite stuffed animal, the Frozen soundtrack on repeat, a bottle of "monster spray" (which is just water and essential oil in a spray bottle), a night light. Help them learn to soothe themselves and you'll be back on track to a good night's sleep.

4. Set a routine

Bedtime should happen the same way, at the same time, every night. Leave enough time to accomplish all the steps--brush teeth, take a bath, put on pajamas, read books, sing songs--without rushing, and make it a habit so your kids know exactly what's happening next. (Preschoolers may benefit from a chart where they can check off each task as they perform it.) Keep the pacing slow and steady, giving kids enough time to transition from one step to the next as they calm down and prepare for sleep.

5. Be consistent

Once you have your routine set, stick to it. You may find the occasional exception, but starting the bedtime routine at the same time each night (even on the weekends) will improve your kids' sleep habits and help your whole family feel more rested. One British study found that inconsistent bedtimes also contributed to worse behavior throughout the day--so when you're tempted to let the kids stay up a few hours later on a Friday night, just remember you'll be paying for it all day Saturday.