How to get your child to sleep

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Getting your kids into a healthy sleep routine isn't an easy task. Kids will be kids and you've probably heard 'but mum, I'm not tired' or 'I want to sleep in your bed' a hundred times, but no more!

If you're tearing your hair out because your little one is really struggling to wind down at night time, don't worry we're here to help. .

The more sleep they have, the more you will too and that sounds pretty good to us!

Daytime activities

Keeping kids active is essential for their sleep patterns - if they don't get out and about enough in the day, when it comes to night time they just won't be tired enough. It is recommended that kids get at least 15 minutes exercise a day.

Tip: Get moving as a whole family! At the weekends head out for walks or play football in your local park - it's great bonding time and you'll all be getting your daily exercise, too.

How to calm everything down after dinner

Most days are busy and exciting for toddlers and kids, so by the time they've had dinner they're likely to be low on energy. This is a great time to calm everything down, let the excitement of the day come to a lull and prepare them for bedtime.

You know your child best so if it's reading a book or watching half-an-hour of TV that chills them out, do whatever works for them. This will really help in the transition from day to night time and they'll start to understand that this time is a calm time before bed.

Try sleep-inducing snacks before bed

A warm glass of milk before bed is a great sleep-inducing drink, but did you know that bananas, turkey, peanuts and yogurt are also loaded with sleep-triggering tryptophan? Give your kids one of these snacks about 30 minutes before bed and it'll help them sleep right through the night.

Check out your child's bedroom

If they always complain about a noise or wake up at a certain time each night, go in their room and check it out. It could be the heating coming on, or a next door neighbour leaving for work, but it's worth checking out to see if there is anything that triggers them to wake up.

Creating a calm place that is perfect for your little one to sleep is key in making sure they sleep well. There's lots to think about when making sure that your child's room is a great sleeping environment, from temperature, to blinds and duvets.

First things first, make sure you invest in a blackout blind - you won't regret it. Throughout the winter months it might seem like the curtains are doing the job, but when summer comes and the days get longer a blackout blind will be perfect for creating a dark and sleepy place for your child.

Then, make sure the temperature is right in the room - like us, children generally sleep better if it's a bit cooler. The temperature of your child's room should be between 18°C and 21°C. However, if you're hot in the room the chances are your child will be too so leave the window slightly open, but locked. During the warmer months you can also use a fan to keep your child cool through the night, just make sure they aren't sleeping near to the draught.

And finally ensure they are sleeping with the right duvet - the last thing you want is them waking up as they're hot and irritable in the night. Unless their bedroom is really cold, it's best to have a lighter weight duvet (between 4.5 and 9 tog). A child's duvet will generally trap more air and be warmer, as they are smaller - so a heavier tog duvet (13.5) would probably be too warm. However, if they do get cold in the winter, make sure you swap to a heavier duvet or put a blanket on top of their usual one.

Try lavender in their bath

Lavender has been proven to help with sleep, so it's worth trying this natural approach when it comes to a child who has sleep troubles.

Each night when they have their bath add some lavender bubble bath and bathe them as normal letting them play with their bath toys. Lavender is said to lengthen sleep time, increase deep sleeps and help you feel refreshed - it's definitely worth a try!

Set clear bedtime limits


At the weekend they might want to stay up a bit later and it's good to allow this every now and then, but remember to keep them in their routine during the week, especially in term times.

As good as it is to reward them with a later bedtime sometimes, make sure that you set clear limits and only give them an extra half-an-hour at the most - the last thing you want is them slipping out of a bedtime routine that works.

Try a sticker chart for little ones


You praise your kids for good behaviour in the day, right? So if they sleep well, they should be praised too. For younger children make a sticker reward chart and set goals for them to reach. For example, if they sleep the whole night through in their bed then they get a sticker and if they get a whole week's worth of stickers then they'll be rewarded with a treat. Giving them achievable targets and incentives like that will encourage them to try and sleep well.

Remove computers, phones and TVs from their room

Try and make their room a place that's about relaxing and going to sleep rather than getting wound up at a computer game or watching the TV. As hard as it is with all the pressure for them to have up-to-date toys, it's best to try and avoid this in their bedrooms. Without the distraction of a TV or Nintendo DS they are much more likely to have a sound night's sleep.

Tip: If your kids have phones make sure they're switching them off at night time too.

Cut down on fizzy drinks during the day


Studies have shown that fizzy drinks can have an affect on kids' sleep. Not only do the drinks disrupt their sleep at night time, but they also leave them feeling sluggish and tired in the day. So, try and cut back on the fizz you give your kids, we bet you'll notice the difference!

What to do if...

They wake up thirsty in the night

If your child is still in nappies then leave a drink in a non-spillable cup by the side of their bed. It's best to just give them water through the night as they'll have brushed their teeth before they go to bed so they shouldn't have squash.

If your child is a bit older and out of nappies, then make sure they drink enough through the day and go to the toilet just before bed. If they wake up saying they're thirsty give them a drink of water, but don't let them guzzle it, or they might end up having an accident.

They wake up worrying

It's not unusual for primary school children to wake up worrying, after all they have lots of things on their mind, from friendship to their school work. If they wake up like this in the night, sit them down and explain that it's alright and they have nothing to stress about. Reassure them that you'll talk through all their concerns with them in the morning.

- Be interested in everything they do. Kids will often hold back if something is bothering them, so make sure you talk through all the different things they do at school and then if they act differently when they are talking about something, like an upcoming test, you'll be more likely to pick up on it.
- Offer to help - for example, if it's a maths test they're worried about, then give them some extra help with their homework.
- Help them come to a solution. Support them in coming up with a way to solve their worries, rather than simply solving them for them.
- Be a good role model! If they hear you fretting about things, then they are likely to pick up on that attitude, so try to stay calm around them and show them the best way to cope with stress.

They won't fall asleep alone

If getting your child to sleep on their own is proving to be the biggest problem for you, then don't panic. There are lots of ways you can make their room seem like a nice place to be on their own and soon they'll be happy falling asleep by themselves. It's unlikely that it'll be an overnight process, especially if you have been staying with your child until they fall asleep.

But, try things like music or audio books as they will take their mind off the fact they are being left alone. Also try putting softly glowing toys on the ceiling in their room to keep them entertained. And, if you have been sitting with them until they fall asleep, gradually decrease the amount of time you spend with them.

Don't worry!

Most of all, don't worry! All children are different and will settle into a routine at different times. You panicking about their sleeping habits will only stress them out further, so it's best to stay calm and remember shouting and getting frustrated won't get you anywhere.

Continued below...

As long as you think your child is getting enough sleep and they aren't over-tired during the day, then you don't need to worry - it'll probably all fall into place on its own.

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