Guest blog by Kate Cohen, Sleep Consultant
When I was asked to write my thoughts on bedtime and routines for little ones a little smile crept across my face, why? Well mainly because having two kids of my own means that I know exactly how hard, easy, manic and joyful bedtime can be, sometimes all in one night!
But to help you understand a bit more about how to approach bedtime with some tips and tricks, here are my thoughts that I’ve pulled together to help you navigate it.
Firstly a bit of sciency stuff
As sleep consultants we always talk about a consistent and good bed time ( that is the time that you are asking your little ones to actually go to sleep). The reason why is that by choosing a consistent bed time you are helping the body understand what time it needs to make itself feel sleepy. It does this in the form of the hormone melatonin which it produces at a similar time each night if the body tells it to. So if you keep your bedtime at a similar time then the body will know to feel sleepy!
The right time for bed time can be a bit of a discussion, for me this is linked in with your little ones tired signs, but from the age of around 4-6 months up until around 5-6 years this quite neatly sits at around 7pm. Once they are older they can handle staying awake for a bit longer so it can get a bit later.
The reason why this is so important is that overtiredness is the killer of sleep, if your little one is overtired, they will find it much harder to settle at bedtime and it can also cause nightwakings, so 9/10 times with a little one who is struggling I recommend and earlier bedtime as the first thing to help the sleep situation.
Now let's talk about bedtime!
In the run up to bedtime try and lower the lights and limit screen time for at least 1hr before bed. This is to encourage the production of melatonin (as I mentioned earlier) as lower light levels (and avoiding the blue light from screens) helps to produce good levels of melatonin.
If you have a child that struggles with settling down at bedtime I love the practice of some calming activities at bedtime. You could consider having something like a calming herbal tea which can be fab for little ones to soothe them into the routine (just make sure there is no caffeine in the tea!) or some mindfulness around bedtime.
For the mindfulness this could be some yoga or breathing exercises, or some positive affirmations such as saying out loud ‘I sleep through the night’ or “I am an amazing sleeper”. This can really help a little one with confidence to settle.
Then have your plan for bedtime, a similar bedtime routine is great for all ages of kids because they start to understand and recognise what comes next.
Think of it as a journey to sleep and a process to work alongside. I often map out the bedtime routine with my clients to help the little one visualise the routine so they can tick off each part as they go along, this helps them stay on track and feel part of the journey.
Recommended parts of the bedtime routine could include:
● Bath - 5-15 mins
● Getting changed
● Stories and Milk
● Brushing Teeth
It doesn’t need to be more than that and if you can keep it to around 30 mins it can help to keep the process on track. If you do find that the process is taking a long time you could start to introduce a stop watch for something like the bath and make it into a bit of a game!
Lastly and sometimes this is a bit of a lightbulb moment for people, it’s worth knowing that a child should take somewhere between 5-15 mins to fall asleep, it’s not an immediate action so if your little one takes a short while this is okay!!
If you would like more tips and tricks or information around sleep head on over to www.sleeptimeconsulting.co.uk or find us on Instagram or Facebook under Sleep Time Consulting.
Kate Cohen is a certified Sleep Consultant with years of experience helping tired families get their sleep back. She can be contacted via firstname.lastname@example.org or on 07748 677 908.