OK, so I am know I am not the only one out there that struggles at bedtime with my kids. If you’re anything like me, by bedtime my patience has run low and if at any point during the day I am going to lose my $h!t it’s going to be at bedtime. When children don’t get enough sleep, they have a tough time controlling their emotion which could lead to being irritable or hyper, which is no fun for anyone. Kids who are consistantly sleep-deprived are more likely to have behavior problems, have trouble paying attention and learning, and tend to be overweight. So although it’s not easy, it’s important to do all you can to help your child get the sleep he/she needs and the peace and quiet you deserve.
We have four kids, all with different sleeping habits. The oldest is the easiest. She will literally put herself to bed and just ask that we tuck her in. Why can’t they all be like this?! The next to oldest will stay up all night if we let her. She’ll play on her phone, watch TV, wander around the house… You name it. The next in line is generally pretty good about going to bed but has a slight case of FOMO which can make her cranky if anyone else is up but she’s ready to go to sleep. The youngest is much like the second oldest in that he will stay up all night. I couldn’t even stay up all night in college without the help of excessive caffeine so I just don’t get it.
At some point though, each of the kids has struggled with going to sleep or staying asleep. As a mom of four, who cherishes her own sleep and sanity, here are some tips I have come up with to help fight those bedtime blues.
- Routine, Routine, Routine.
I truly can’t stress this enough. Having a solid bedtime routine is critical in my house for all of us. During the summer this can be tricky but overall, it’s yielded the best success. For me, I can anticipate exactly how much I have to do before I finally get some peace and quiet and for the kids, they have the understanding of what happens leading up to light’s out. Generally for us, the hour to hour and a half leading up to bedtime is showers, getting teeth brushed, a few minutes of play time or screen time and then we get the diffusers going with our favorite “calming oils” (sleepyize, cedarwood, lavender, chamomile, etc.) Routines are especially important for the younger kiddos – infants, toddlers and preschoolers. So I guess you can say I am like a toddler and need my routine to survive bedtime just as much as my kids do. Doing specific things before bed, such as a bath or story time, signal to your child what’s coming next. Knowing what comes next is comforting and relaxing, for both the parents and the kids. Before you know it, your child’s body will automatically start to become sleepy at the beginning of their routine as their body releases hormones signalling that it’s sleep time. Here is an interesting study that was done about the impact of routines at bedtime.
2. Support Their Sleep Hormones
Hormones play a key role in the body’s ability to fall and stay asleep. Being aware of this and supporting your kids (and your own) sleep hormones. This first is to reduce cortisol levels – which is our stress hormone. If cortisol levels are hightened it will be difficult for the child to fall asleep. This means reducing stressful things right before bed – physical activity, serious conversations, etc. Another great way to support cortisol levels in the evening is to dim the lights, keep the house a little more quiet leading up to bedtime and just fostering a relaxing environment. This goes back to having a routine as well because there will be fewer surprises and less rushing to get everything done at the last minute.
Melatonin is another important hormone that impacts sleep quality and quantity. With the long days of summer, sometimes it may seem impossible to get your kids to bed at a normal hour (especially the younger ones). When my kids were younger, the normal bedtime was 6:30pm and they’d sleep until about 6am. Yes, you read that right. Even during the summer. Your child’s sleep cycle isn’t just dependent on light (or the lack thereof). It’s also sensitive to temperature. Melatonin levels help to regulate the drop of internal body temperature needed to sleep, but you can help regulate the external temperature by limiting blankets and avoiding bundling them up too much. We use cedarwood essential oil at night because it supports the body’s natural production of melatonin which is way better than supplementing melatonin. By supplementing something our body already makes, it signals to our bodies that we don’t need as much therefore inhibiting our natural production. Here is a cool article on all the different horomones that impact our sleep.
3. Make their bedrooms ideal sleeping environments
While this can be tricky since many of our kids like to play in their rooms as well so there can be lots of distractions. At bedtime however, the room should be peaceful, quiet and dimly lit. If your child is uncomfortable with a completely dark room they should have a little night light but nothing overwhelming, just enough to give them security. Along the same lines, if there is a toy or blanket that relaxes them or brings them comfort they should also have that as part of their night-time routine. My oldest daughter (almost 13) still sleeps with a stuffed pink bunny she’s had since she was 6 months old. Shhhh, don’t tell her I told you that. But in all seriousness, it helps her relax and sleep.
Like I said before, I also have diffusers in each of the bedrooms to help create a calming environment. The soft scent of lavender helps all of us unwind after a long day and is part of our nightly routine. The habit of having it on each night helps set the stage for their bodies to relax and also offers theraputic benefits while they are away in dreamland.
What helps your kids fall and stay asleep?