Lack of sleep is one of my pet peeves. So many students show up to speech class sleepy and not ready to learn. Not only do I like to get a full night of sleep myself, I want my students to sleep well so they can perform at their best. Sleep is so important for children to stay focused!
But I know how hard it is to parent children that don’t sleep well. When I was pregnant with my first son, I figured that there would be a period of sleepless nights for a few weeks after he was born and then he would sleep through the night. I was so naive! I didn’t realize that although many kids do start sleeping through the night as babies (highly variable), if they get sick or are teething, they stop sleeping through the night for a period of time. Then they get off-track and, with how many colds kids get during the school year, sleep can be elusive. My oldest is turning 8 and my youngest will be turning 4 this fall so I have had many years of experience getting children to sleep. I’ve found some solutions for those tough nights:
- Check make sure that your child is warm enough. Even though they seem warm when you put them down, it might be a good idea to make sure there’s plenty of layers on them. I loved the sleep sacks when my boys were younger — you can zip them into them they can’t take off. Even my 3-year-old is warm when I put him down, in the middle the night he gets cold! So I put him in a sleeper that he cannot remove. Hopefully when he turns four he will learn how to pull a blanket up over himself consistently at night.
- A space heater. If you live in an older home, temperatures can vary from room to room. I’ve found that when I close the doors to my sons’ rooms, it gets cold. A space heater is an energy hog so be aware that you might notice an increase in your bill. But it works! I put the space heaters on the side of their rooms. Don’t use an old space heater; make sure you have a newer one that complies with all the latest safety rules.
- Bedtime snacks work! I know it sounds weird to say, but I really need to fill my kid up! My kids eat an early dinner and by the time it’s bedtime, they are a little hungry. Sometimes it’s fruit, but on special occasions they do get ice cream.
- Invest in blackout curtains. Curtains and blinds don’t block out all the sun. I have curtains and blinds in my kids’ rooms and on top of that I bought inexpensive paper blackout curtains at Home Depot for $5 per panel. The paper blackout curtains are easily customizable for the size of your window because you can cut them to fit. Many studies reveal that light at night interrupts the some of the cycles in the brain. Simple blackout curtains work great!
- Use a Dreamlight. A dreamlight is a nightlight that the child can push which will put stars on the ceiling of the room. It can usually in the shape of an animal and it will last for 45 minutes and then it will turn itself off. Then it’s jet black night in the room for the rest of the night. The child has the ability to control the light in the room as they fall sleep. I found that with my younger son if he does wake up in the middle the night he can just walk over and turn on the light and go back to sleep on his own.
Those are my tips for parents of both little ones and big ones. Having well-rested children makes a huge difference in our lives, both at school and work and when we are together at home! I’d love to hear your tips for good sleep in the comments, or you can email me!