If you’re a parent, you know the nightly challenge: to get your kids to go to bed -- and stay there. It’s not easy, but it’s one of the most important things you can do for them.
When children don't get enough sleep, they have a harder time controlling their emotions. They may be irritable or hyper, which is no fun for anyone. Kids who are always sleep-deprived are more likely to have behavior problems, have trouble paying attention and learning, and be overweight. So although it's not easy, it's important to do all you can to help your child get the sleep she needs.
Regular schedules and bedtime rituals play a big role in helping kids get sound sleep and function at their best. When you set and maintain good sleep habits, it helps your child fall asleep, stay asleep, and awake rested and refreshed. They can help take the stress out of bedtime, too.
There are no hard-and-fast rules for bedtime, and every child is different. What's important is to build a routine that works for your family -- and to stick with it. Here are nine ways to get started.
1. Make sleep a family priority.
Set regular go-to-bed and wake-up times for the entire family and be sure to follow them -- even on weekends. You can tell that children are getting enough sleep when they fall asleep within 15 to 30 minutes of going to bed, wake up easily in the morning, and don't nod off during the day.
2. Deal with sleep troubles.
Signs of sleep struggles include trouble falling asleep, waking up at night, snoring, stalling and resisting going to bed, having trouble breathing during sleep, and loud or heavy breathing while sleeping. You might notice problems in daytime behavior as well. If your child seems overtired, sleepy, or cranky during the day, tell her doctor.
3. Work as a team.
It's important to discuss and agree on a sleep strategy for your child with your spouse or partner beforehand and work together as a team to carry it out consistently. Otherwise, you can't expect your child to learn or change her behavior.
If you are starting a new sleep routine for your child, make her part of the team by explaining the new plan to her if she is old enough to understand. For a young child, try using a picture chart to help your child learn the new routine, showing actions like changing clothes, brushing teeth, and reading a book.