The Sleep Dilemma: How to Help Your Little Ones Go to Sleep and Stay Asleep.

If your child does not sleep well, bedtime can be one of the most exhausting times of the day for you and your little one. Your child’s difficulty falling or staying asleep not only affects your child but the entire household as well.

Why Don’t Children Fall Asleep Right Away?

Children often take longer to fall asleep because their minds and bodies are constantly growing and active. They are exploring their world and surroundings, and it is hard for them to quickly shut down their busy minds.

Why Do Children Wake Up During the Night?

Another common sleep problem children face is waking up multiple times throughout the night. This can interrupt their quality of sleep and can be attributed to multiple causes. Some of the most common causes for regular night time waking include,

  • They Are Hungry – If your child is a big eater, or perhaps they don’t eat as well later in the day, they may be waking you up to eat.
  • Conditioning – Conditioning occurs a lot with breastfed children but can occur with those who are bottle fed as well. They become adapted to waking up at the same times at night that they had previously awoken to feed.  
  • Underlying Medical Conditions – While it is rare, children can suffer from sleep problems, such as sleep apnea. This is often due to enlarged adenoids and can be easily treated when they are younger.

Ways to Help Your Children Get to Sleep and Stay Asleep

So the question becomes, “How can you get your little one to not only get to sleep but stay asleep through the night?”

Create a Familiar Bedtime Routine

Routine is very important to children. When they know what to expect next they feel safe and calm. Pick a routine that will work best for everyone so that it is easy for all parties to stick to. A common routine that helps your child slowly calm down and transition into bedtime is the bath, book, bed routine. One of the most important parts of the routine is having the same bedtime every night – even on the weekends.  In your routine, you will also want to include a regular wake time so they do not get more sleep at night than they need.

Regulate the Amount of Sleep They Get During the Day

As your child grows, they will need less sleep. Some children will require the maximum amount of the sleep required and others may need the least, but as long as they are in the range, they should be getting the proper rest. The recommended amount of sleep by age includes:

  • 0 to 6 months – 14 to 16 hours
  • 6 to 12 months – 13 to 14 hours
  • 2 to 3 years – 11 to 13 hours 

If your child’s nap time is taking up a large portion of their sleep, either eliminate a nap or make one shorter so that they will get more of their sleep overnight.

Create an Environment That is Conducive to Rest and Relaxation

Your child’s bedroom or sleep area should be stress-free and promote relaxation. Make sure there is nothing on the walls or in the room that will distract them or could cause any kind of stress, and ensure that there are no electronic devices for at least two hours before bedtime. Additionally, you will want to make sure that the room is set at a temperature that is cool enough for the child to be comfortable. Rooms that are too warm can cause your little one to wake up repeatedly.

Try Sleep Training

If your child is particularly difficult to get to sleep or has co-slept with you for a period of time, you may have to send a few nights sleep training your little one to get them to fall asleep in the crib.  

You will want to wait until your child is tired – but not fully asleep – when you lay them down in the crib. They will probably fuss, and that is ok. If they do, give them a few reassuring rubs or pats on the back. If they are older and keep standing up, gently lay them back down. If they begin to cry for more than a few moments, pick them up and give them a quick hug or bounce and lay them back down.  

It can take some time before they fall asleep so don’t give up. Once they have fallen asleep, leave the room. If they wake in the middle of the night, follow the same routine of back rubs and hugs. This may involve a few sleepless nights, but eventually, your child will be able to soothe themselves to sleep in their crib.

If your child has a hard time staying or falling asleep, try the tips above to put you and your child on the path to a good night’s rest.

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