Establishing good sleep habits help to encourage proper growth and development, but the struggle can be real. As many parents many parents soon find out, the phrase “sleeping like a baby” is one of the biggest jokes because a good number of babies (and toddlers too) just don’t like to sleep. So what do you do — how do you develop and implement good sleep habits? As a researcher for the sleep science hub Tuck.com and mama to three, here are some tips to try.
Building The Best Baby And Toddler Sleep Habits
Don’t let your baby dictate his/her sleep schedule. Newborns don’t have established circadian rhythms until they reach about six weeks, so they’re opportunistic sleepers. By three to six months, sleep patterns that you can influence will emerge. Some issues may crop up like teething, night-waking, and separation anxiety, which may require fine-tuning your child’s sleep regimen. However, a good place to start is by ensuring your child has a comfortable place to sleep and a soothing environment.
Some sleep tips to consider for babies and toddlers:
- Allow them to self-soothe
- Avoid naps close to bedtime
- Feed fully before bedtime
- Avoid late-night stimulation
- Address sleep resistance
- Make and stick to a schedule
- Create a bedtime routine (bath, story, etc.)
Establishing Effective Sleep Habits For School-Aged Children
School-aged kids need quality sleep to excel academically and socially. During the school year, obligations like sports and enrichment activities take up time. With multiple children, your family schedule might be hectic and bathtimes and bedtimes run late. Less sleep means cranky, tired kids in the morning. Sticking to sleep routines become more of a challenge as schedules get busy, but it’s critical to push through. In the summer, you can loosen up, but consistency is key. Bedtime and when your child rises can be later, but try to stick to a schedule so that adjusting back in the fall is easier.
Some sleep tips to consider for school-age kids:
- Turn off screens two hours before bedtime
- Transition to a more autonomous bedtime routine
- Eliminate caffeine and if not, cut off consumption by 3pm
- Don’t send to bed with an empty or overly full stomach
- Stick to routines on weekends and school holidays
- Consider whether activity schedules are too intense
- Talk to your pediatrician about ongoing sleep issues
Setting Boundaries For Teens For Healthy Sleep Habits
Studies show 90% of high schoolers don’t get enough rest. Nine hours of sleep is ideal, but many teens don’t get near that much. Teenagers that don’t sleep enough are at risk for medical and mental health issues (obesity, depression, etc.). Increasingly challenging academics, busy social lives, athletics, and activities (plus screen time) can overwhelm your teen. Plus, they want to dictate their schedule. When looking to help create healthy sleep habits, encourage your teen to develop a game plan with your input.
Some sleep tips to consider for healthy teen sleep:
- Cut screen time off at least an hour before bed
- Eliminate caffeine after dinner time
- Makeover their room for a more relaxed sleep experience
- Encourage exercise during the day for better sleep at night
- Don’t let them sleep in too late on the weekends
Remember, the better your child sleeps, the better you will sleep, and everyone in the family will be happier and healthier.
Sara Westgreen is a researcher for the sleep science hub Tuck.com. She sleeps on a king size bed in Texas, where she defends her territory against cats all night. A mother of three, she enjoys beer, board games, and getting as much sleep as she can get her hands on.
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