When my daughter was born, I did not attend a sleeping school to learn about good sleeping habits and, sure enough, we were so excited with the arrival of the new baby that we tried to spend every second with her. When she was 11 months old, we discovered that we did not have a life.
Eden was a “no-sleep baby”. She just did not want to go to sleep. Once she closed her eyes and stopped moving, she would sleep really well, so I am not complaining, because this meant that I rarely had to wake up in the middle of the night. But, the difficulty I had was in getting her to go to bed and fall sleep.
Even now, when she is 19 years old, we still see every night the struggle between her body and her mind. Her body tells her to go to bed and her mind still thinks that sleeping is the greatest waste of time.
My mom and Eden are total opposites. My mom thinks that sleeping is the essence of life and goes to sleep in the middle of the day, regardless of her activities. But Eden thinks sleeping is a waste of time.
I am sure that having the right attitude towards sleep varies from individual to individual, but there must be a happy medium somewhere between sleep addiction and sleep deprivation.
Sleep is essential to many functions of the body and your thinking capacity is highly influenced by it. Success at school can be directly influenced by sleep, relationships can be directly affected by sleep and health has a direct connection to sleep. Therefore, happiness and sleep have a lot to do with each other.
Kids do not really understand why they need to sleep (I know many adults who don’t either) and it won’t help you to explain over and over again about health, concentration and tiredness. Kids concentrate on one thing at a time and will do all that they can to steal two more minutes of open eyes.
- Some will try the screaming scene, “I will scream until you let me stay awake”.
- Some will try the guilt tactic, “Mom, you promised me” or “You never let me stay up”.
- Some will try the food tactic, “Poor me, I am starving to death”.
- Some will try stalling, “Just one more”.
- Some will bring shadows, monsters and ghosts for help, “There’s a Nightmare in My Closet“.
How to Develop Good Sleeping Habits
Here are some tips that will help your kids establish good sleeping habits easily.
- Do not start with habits you do not want to have to maintain for a long time. Remember, when you say to yourself, “I will just do it for one night, or two nights”, you do not know it, but you could be starting a habit. If this is something you won’t be able to continue, try something else.
- Have a soft night light in the kids’ room to give them the confidence that they are in a familiar place when they wake up at night. Make sure it is a soft light so they can distinguish between night and day.
- Get them to take a hot bath or a hot shower to relax before bedtime.
- Use a perfume, an essential oil on their bed or their teddy bear so that they associate sleeping with that scent. If they have problems sleeping, encourage them to smell the teddy, the blanket or their musical mobile. Try to stick to the same scent, until good sleeping habits are established.
- Introduce quiet time before bedtime and avoid rough, loud games that stimulate the kids. Make sure this quiet time lasts up to half an hour.
- Have a sleeping routine – hugging, kissing, singing or storytelling. Even with teens, you can have a bedtime routine of talking about the successes of the day or the plans for the following day.
- Never, never, never fall for the, “Just one more” game. This game breeds trouble in many areas of parenting. Decide what you allow, make it clear and stick to it.
- Find out when your kids pass their tiredness point, after which their adrenaline kicks in and they become hyperactive, and make sure you never let them get beyond it. As they grow, teach them to recognize this point and plan their sleeping habits around it.
- Too much sugar can cause sleeping problems, especially if consumed before bedtime. It gives kids (and grownups) a boost of energy they do not need when they go to sleep. Avoid sugary food before bedtime (a bottle with cordial next to your baby’s bed can cause problems with teeth too).
- Blame the clock (sneaky, but effective). If you have a kid who does not want to sleep, point to the clock and say, “The clock says it is time for bed”. Young kids do not have a good understanding of time and cannot argue with the clock.
- If your kids love music and sounds, put soft music on when they go to bed. If you want them to go to bed and relax for a while before falling asleep, but you cannot stay with them, teach them to listen to recorded stories before bedtime.
- Get creative and make sleeping fun. Let your kids sleep in a sleeping bag. Buy a small tent and let them sleep in it on the floor. Bring a big box and build a house they can sleep in. Put up a sheet or a net over their bed to make it feel like they are in a palace. My kids had a tent made with plastic tubes, which they could put together themselves. Over the years, I had to make a new cover for it, but the kids just loved it and slept in it on their bed, on the floor and even with friends.
- When your kids start arguing, say firmly, “Now it is time to go to bed”. No matter how much they argue, just say it again, calmly but firmly, “Now it is time to go to bed”. When I first tried it, I thought it would not work on Eden, who was 6 at the time and a master debater, but after 3 days, she gave up and a new sleeping habit was created.
- To give them the confidence you are there, say, “I’ll see you in the morning”.
- To give them the confidence that you are there all the time, say, “I’m going to be home all night, sleeping in my own room. Come wake me up in the morning”.
- A massage is a great way to help kids go to sleep. Even my teens ask for a massage and enjoy every minute of this pure and total attention.
- Meditation before sleep is a wonderful way to help kids sleep. Learn some meditation techniques – music, mantra or counting – and do it with your kids until they can do it by themselves.
- If your kids have bad dreams, tell them about the Dream Fairy. Tell them that they need to ask the Dream Fairy for a dream, write it down, put it under the bed, and tell them that the Dream Fairy will grant their wish. If they are too young to write the wish down, write it for them or ask them to draw the dream they want to have.
- If you do not want your kids sleeping in your bed at night, take them back to their own bed whenever they come. Stay calm and take them back to bed even if you have to do it 10 times a night.
- Some allergies can cause sleeping problems. If the allergies drag on for a long time, seek medical help.
For more information, tips and advice, you may want to try The Baby Sleep Solution audio program.
Have a good night’s sleep,