Wish getting your kids to sleep was your super power?
Some days getting your kids to sleep can be the ONLY thing that matters, right? When it’s been a long day, and everyone’s nerves are a little frayed… things can descend into chaos pretty quickly.
Developing a good bedtime routine is not just for babies. School-aged kids and bigger kids (yeah, I’m looking at you Mom and Dad!) need it too. We all need to wind down at the end of the day, get to bed before becoming over-tired and get enough hours in to wake feeling refreshed.
Why is sleep so important?
It’s easy to think that since we’re closing our eyes, and nodding off for the night, that we’ve finished all the hard work for the day. But that’s just not true!
We didn’t used to know that anything much was going on once our head hit the pillow. But science now shows that our bodies our getting busy repairing any damage that has occurred throughout the day, releasing chemicals that strengthen our immune system, and our brain shrinks to allow for a good clean out of toxins.
Plus, according to New Zealand’s Ministry of Health “there is increasing evidence that not enough, or poor quality, sleep can negatively affect children’s behaviour, learning, health, wellbeing and weight.”
Not to mention, a good bedtime routine for the kids leads to a good routine for you! If you spend hours wrangling the kids, there is every chance by the time they’re asleep, you’re ready for bed too!
So there’s no doubt it’s pretty darn important.
How many hours sleep should my kids get?
The National Sleep Foundation recommends school-aged children (from 6-13 years) get between 9-11 hours each night. This means that if your kids are getting up at 7am, they’ll need to be tucked in around 9pm. If they’re getting up an hour earlier, they’ll need to go to bed between 7 or 8pm.
And although this is a good place to start, just remember every child is different AND there will be times when this differs for each child. The start of a school term, growth spurts, a winter cold or a run of bad sleeps can all be good reasons to bring bedtime forward an hour.
Six tips to guarantee sweet dreams!
1. Develop a consistent routine
The best way to a tantrum-free bedtime is consistency. That way everyone knows what to expect. If you like to have bath time after dinner, that’s a nice way to start. Then follow it up with pajamas and teeth brushing.
You can make the routine whatever suits you, but just going through the same motions every night will send those signals to your children that it’s time to wind down and start getting ready for sleep.
2. Share a bedtime story
A bedtime story is a great way to not only have some nice bonding time at the end of the day, but also to give your kids a few minutes to lie back and just listen. And some nights they might want to read you the story.
My kids are two and a half years apart, so as my daughter was getting into chapter books, my son just wasn’t ready. I let them take turns at choosing the betime story and eventually we settled on some all-time favourites like ‘The Folk of the Faraway Tree’, which is great for all ages!
3. Restrict screens in the evening
I know, I know! Screens are one of the biggest challenges these days with raising kids. But if it’s not a challenge you feel you’re winning, at least keep to this rule – no screens in the 2 hours before bed.
That bothersome blue light can play havoc with your sleep, interrupting the body’s signal that it’s time to wind down for sleep. This will then led to not enough quality sleep and your kids may not feel well rested in the morning.
4. Add a little scent
The connection between scents and emotions is one of our brain’s strongest! By using a relaxing scent at bedtime, the brain begins to associate the scent with ‘time to relax’ and knows that it’s time to wind down. Plus engaging our senses helps to increase mindfulness and feeling present in the moment. This naturally reduces anxiety and stress as we stop replaying things that have happened in the past or worrying about something that might happen in the future.
It’s as easy as buying a spray bottle from the dollar store and filling it with water and a few drops of essential oil, or you can simply put a few drops straight onto the pillow. And of course, if you have a diffuser (ultrasonic diffusers are the safest for kids rooms) you can use that – that’s definitely my favourite way to set the mood.
5. A sleepy-time massage
Now, you probably don’t want to be relying on a massage to get your wee ones off to sleep every night, but keep it up your sleeve for the nights when you need a little extra help. Maybe they’ve become overtired, or have had an emotional day and are just minutes away from melting down for no good reason.
A short five minute massage can make all the difference! I use almond oil or coconut oil with a few drops of essential oil. I let my kids smell the options and choose an essential oil they feel like that night. It adds to the treat and makes it feel special! Just make sure to offer up some calming oils like lavendar, chamomile, rose or clary sage.
6. Keep a little flexibility
Some nights things just don’t go how you planned and, although consistency is great, sanity rates pretty high too! 🙂 I’ve added this one in because tonight our routine has gone out the window! My daughter is in bed with a fever, and her brother usually relies pretty heavily on her for bedtime cues. He gets a little lost without his big sis!
So the usual bedtime story together went out the window, and I hopped into bed with him for ten minutes to help him settle down. It doesn’t happen every night, but I know if he didn’t get that extra attention, bedtime might have dragged on for hours!
But by far the most important thing to get kids to sleep well is to find a routine that works for you. Every family is different, and everyone has different time pressures. Make an effort to prioritise a regular bedtime routine and stick to it!