5 Effective Tips to Get Your Child to Go to Bed
Trouble falling asleep and not wanting to go to bed isn’t just a problem for parents of newborns and toddlers. Plenty of school-aged kids have difficulty with bedtimes as well. Adequate rest is especially crucial for older children. Without it, they may experience more difficulty learning and have more trouble focusing in school. Not getting enough sleep can also impact a child’s physical development, moods, and the strength of their immune system. Let’s take a look at how to get your child to go to bed more easily along with some helpful parenting tips for bedtime.
Why Children Won’t Go to Bed
Kids fight going to bed for any number of reasons. Some of the most common issues include
- caffeine consumption
- fear or anxiety
- issues with their sleep environment
- power struggles
- lack of a bedtime routine or transition
- inconsistent bedtime
Know How Much Sleep Your Child Needs
Different kids will require different amounts of sleep to feel rested. Though it’s typical for younger children to have earlier bedtimes, their internal clocks begin to shift in their teenage years as they move to staying up and sleeping later. Try to respect a child’s natural sleep schedule as much as you’re able while still incorporating school time and other activities. Adjust each child’s routine to fit their individual needs. According to the American Academy of Sleep Medicine, these are the typical sleep needs for children:
- 0 to 3 months: 14 to 19 hours (including naps)
- 4 to 12 months: 12 to 16 hours (including naps)
- 1 to 2 years: 11 to 14 hours (including naps)
- 3 to 5 years: 10 to 13 hours (including naps)
- 6 to 12 years: 9 to 12 hours
- 13 to 18 years: 8 to 10 hours
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1. Establish a Bedtime Routine
Having a predictable, consistent routine around naps and bedtime can help children fall asleep. Setting aside quiet time for a bath or reading a book are excellent ways to help your children settle down and transition to rest time. Try to incorporate these bedtime routine tips:
Set a bedtime
Establishing a regular sleep schedule will help your child’s body feel tired and fall asleep more easily at the right time. Make every effort to keep bedtime consistent, even on non-school days, as much as possible.
One of the most important tips for a bedtime routine is to keep things as consistent as possible. The more predictable a child’s sleep routine is, the more likely they are to follow it and actually go to bed when it’s over. If your little one knows you’ll read an extra story if they demand it or that you’ll go get them a drink or that you’ll allow them to get in bed with you, they’re incentivized to keep asking. Strive to have them return to their own bed once all their needs are met, and ask them to stay there. Turn on the night light, crack open the door, and tell your little one that you’ll keep checking on them every few minutes, but that they need to stay in bed. Remain gentle and calm, but be firm.
Keep it simple
Make your child’s bedtime routine short and sweet and follow the same steps in the same order each night. Shut down electronics for at least an hour before going to bed. If your little one complains they aren’t tired, let them look at books or listen to music quietly in their room. You can also try reading to them for a bit (even older children like listening to stories).
If the rest of the family or older children are still awake and having fun when your little one’s bedtime rolls around, they may feel left out and not want to go to bed. Have other family members put on pajamas, start dimming the lights, and transition the whole house into a more relaxed mode.
Make a connection
Some little ones have trouble going to bed because they need more time and connection with their caregivers. Spending a little extra time snuggling or cuddling at bedtime can give your child an emotional boost that helps them feel more comfortable and secure sleeping on their own.
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2. Manage Anxiety
Anxiety about major life changes or events at school or even a scary book that they read can impact a child’s ability to fall asleep. Consider how stress may be affecting your child and whether you need to consult a doctor or counselor to help ease their mind and teach them coping strategies.
3. Time Naps Carefully
Too many naps or naps that happen late in the day can disrupt regular bedtimes and interfere with the quality of nighttime sleep. If you suspect this may be the case, consider moving the naptime, making it shorter, or skipping it completely. If your child is on the verge of outgrowing naps, try transitioning to an earlier bedtime. Make sure your little one stays active during non-school days so that they’re tired when bedtime rolls around.
4. Check Their Sleep Environment
A comfy bedroom also helps make bedtime more successful. Make their room as appealing to them as possible with stuffed animals, a special blanket, or decorations featuring characters and themes they love. Keep their room clean, uncluttered, dark, and at a comfortable temperature to encourage better sleep. Keep computers and televisions out of the bedroom. Consider using a night light or white noise machine to help the room feel safer and more welcoming.
5. Establish a Waking Time
Having a consistent waking time is just as essential as having a consistent bedtime when it comes to establishing your child's sleep rhythm. The specific time doesn’t really matter as long as it works for school and your family’s activities and allows your child to maximize their sleep hours.
The Bottom Line
Developing good sleep habits is an important part of maintaining overall good health. Sometimes it takes a while to adjust bedtimes, waking times, and routines to figure out what works best for your child. You’ll have to be flexible and continue to adjust as they grow (the best bedtime tips for 3-year-olds may be a little different than infant bedtime routine tips). Be patient. Learning to go to bed easily and on their own will happen with time. It may just take some children a little longer to get there.
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