Help! Bedtime is a nightmare!
Is bedtime sometimes a dragged out saga for you, taking hours more than you anticipated? Or do you sometimes feel like your little one becomes so wired and energetic just as you’re trying to wind him down?
Over the past few years I’ve collected some rituals, tips and tricks that have made bedtimes really smooth and enjoyable for us – for the most part. We still have those off-days of course, and all of this works for us but it might not be right for your family . Still, here are the pearls that have transformed our evenings and hopefully some of them can apply to yours.
- Start early
For us, bedtime starts 2 hours before our kids fall asleep, and that is early (normally before 7pm). It seems so many children (and adults) are sleep deprived, and often an earlier bedtime just gives them that extra hour or two they really need. Our kids, at least, won’t usually sleep-in in the morning, no matter what time they fell asleep, so this is our only assured way of adding extra zzzs.What starting early means is that you create some quiet time before bedtime, enough time to unwind, play, relax, eat slowly etc. If you’re rushing in the door, or ushering play dates out just 30 minutes before bedtime, your kids may not have enough time to unravel from the day and they may get even more wired.
- Keep dinner close to bedtime
Parents are often tormented by that whine that comes, just as they’re saying their final bedtime prayer… “But I’m hungry!”. Who says no to a hungry child? On the other hand it’s incredibly frustrating when you’ve cleared dinner away after final curtain calls of “Are you sure your belly is full”?Perhaps the antidote to this is to keep dinner close to bedtime and a long time after any previous snack, so that hopefully bellies fill up and hunger is kept at bay until the morning. If this doesn’t work, you could consider ” href=”http://www.ahaparenting.com/”>Dr. Laura Markham’s approach of keeping a snack handy at bedtime. Perhaps always the same options, to simplify.
- Limit fluid intake
Limiting fluid intake is great before bed, of course only if your kid isn’t thirsty. If you try to push the balance of fluid intake over to the morning and midday, and then less at night, this sometimes works.
- Create a soothing atmosphere
For many kids, this is really critical in my opinion. As a sensitive person myself, if I don’t have the calming lighting, or if I’m overexposed to screens in the evenings, I’m less likely to fall asleep easily. Many kids are ultra sensitive to their environments and need to feel the calm in your voice, in the lighting, and in the sounds around them.There are lots of ways of soothing all five senses, some might seem like overkill to you, but hey, what’s a little essential oil action if it reduces the hours spent trying to sooth your child to sleep?
Sight – Dim the lights (heck, if possible – watch the sunset!) and always opt for warm lights (never cold, white florescent). Soft lighting is crucial for unwinding. If you can go all out consider lighting candles during bath time (stay safe, bla bla). Often visual triggers like tidying up the house can also send a wind-down message.
Smell – Consider using oils, lotions or shampoos that have calming scents such as lavender, jasmine, or sandalwood.
Touch – A warm bath is super soothing, which is why we always take one before bed. Also, apparently we all have a shortage in magnesium, so if your doctor allows it, you could consider adding magnesium enriched Epsom salts into bath-time.
Many kids love a little massage, stroking or just sitting on your lap while you read books. Your body warmth and closeness fills up their need for connection with you, thereby sending them off to a more sound sleep. Keep in mind also soft pajamas, and a fresh, airy room… very hard to sleep in a stuffy, hot one.
Sound – Lullabies are used universally to induce sleep. We like the sleep app “Sleep Genius” which plays music that is apparently designed to induce sleepiness. Talking in soft, gentle tones, yawning a lot and talking slowly are also relaxing cues.
Taste – There are certain foods that make you sleepy, for babies and toddlers this is typically warm (breast) milk.
- Communicate sleepiness yourself
Lying down next to your kid, allowing them to feel your warmth, hear your heartbeat and follow your closing eyes… these are the ultimate triggers for sleepiness. This follows the best of parenting advice: model, model, model! And hey, you might just catch a nice little nap yourself! Two birds, people, two birds.