With the ball dropping in just a few days, it’s time to think about starting off the new year with great habits and good health; and what better way to do that than with proper sleep?! Don’t forget, it’s not only our kids who can benefit from proper sleep habits and bedtime routines – we adults can learn a thing or two from the habits we try to instil in our little ones. Here are four tips to help you AND your kiddo get great sleep this year:
1. Kick the electronics:
Whether it’s cartoons pre-bedtime for your little one or emails for mom before she hits the hay, electronics aren’t helping anyone in the family get to sleep. Not only do the “storylines” (of both the cartoons and the emails!) rev up our brains, but the bright lights emitted by television, tablet, computer and phone screens inhibit the production of melatonin, which is the naturally occurring hormone that actually helps us fall asleep at bedtime. So, resist the urge to turn on the TV, check your texts, or distract your preschooler with the iPad at any point within an hour of bedtime, and watch the Zs arrive much more easily!
2. Consider room environment:
Street light keeping you from drifting off? Sunlight disturbing your child’s nap? Garbage truck lumbering down your street at 5am, waking up the whole house? It’s important to consider the room environment when prioritizing proper sleep. Blackout blinds covered by blackout curtains will get rid of both artificial and natural light from outside that can cause difficult bedtimes and early morning wakes. Another great blackout option is the Blackout EZ Window Cover. Futher, a sound machine playing continuous white noise can help drown out external sounds like the neighbour’s dog barking or a bus stop outside your window. In the case of little ones, avoid distractions in cribs like mobiles and toy aquariums; and, in the case of older children in big-kid beds, try to keep the room mainly for sleep (rather than it doubling as a playroom!), and limit toys in the room to some books and a couple of stuffies or a comfort object, rather than hundreds of Legos or ten baby dolls needing to be “tucked in” every night before bedtime!
3. Have a routine, any routine!
When it comes to children, routines are key. Babies, toddlers, and preschoolers thrive on routines; they do not like surprises in their scheduling, and they do well when they know what’s coming up next. Having a proper bedtime routine in place – for example, a bath, followed by brushing teeth, PJs, books, and bed – can both help your child wind down and also help them process that sleep is coming up soon, and prepare for this. For adults, too, doing similar elements of a routine in a similar order each night leading up to bedtime can help our brains process that it’s time to go to sleep, and help us come by rest more easily when we do hit the hay.
4. Get your butt to bed!
It can be tough to fit in dinner, extracurriculars, family time, downtime, AND a proper bedtime, but it’s so important to prioritize sleep whenever possible. Avoid late bedtimes for kiddos due to overscheduling, and late nights for parents due to hours and hours of Netflix! When we snuggle in at around the same time each night, our body clocks adjust much more easily and go to sleep much more quickly than if our bedtime falls at a different spot on the clock each day. Resist the urge to burn the midnight oil, and find yourself much more rested this year!
Erin Junker is a Professional Infant & Toddler Sleep Consultant, and owner of The Happy Sleep Company (thehappysleepcompany.ca). She works closely with tired parents to help them help their little ones get the healthy, restful sleep they need. Follow her at www.facebook.com/thehappysleepcompany www.instagram.com/thehappysleepcompany and on Twitter @TheHappySleepCo, and let’s get your family the healthy, happy sleep you deserve!