Kids' Sleep Troubles
Little Yawn Collective - Aug 04, 2021
Some nights, it feels like getting your kids to sleep requires a PhD, a magic wand, and all the luck in the world.
Every parent has a different experience of bedtime, but almost all of us can say there have been nights when we’re convinced our kids have developed a superpower that means they’ll simply never need to sleep again.
But why exactly does bedtime end up being so difficult and what can we do to help our little ones get off to a great sleep?
We’ll explain why in this post and, if all goes to plan, you’ll be on the way to helping your children (and yourself) rest a little easier.
Common reasons why kids don’t want to sleep
Every child is different, but a lot of kids’ sleep troubles come down to a few common issues:
- Inconsistent or non-existent sleep routine
- Lack of communication and clarity
- Disturbances and distractions
- Illness or discomfort
We’re going to take a look through each of these common causes of sleepy suffering, suggest a few solutions, and get you on the path to bedtime bliss.
It’s really the least you deserve.
Why routine is so important for kids’ sleepA good sleep routine can make a huge difference to getting your little one off to sleep calmly and comfortably. It’s also beneficial to sleep quality, if you need any more persuading!
When setting a bedtime routine, making it predictable, consistent and enjoyable is more important than making it amazing and perfect. A simple, consistent routine will work better than a bells-and-whistles routine that you only have time for on weekends.
So, what makes a bedtime routine?
It’s essentially a series of behavioral triggers, each leading to the next step in a routine that gets your child physically and mentally ready for bed.
That could look like:
Or any other combination of behaviors, actions, and triggers. It all depends on what you need your child to do and what they enjoy, too. Don’t try to reinvent the wheel, just make a routine that’s easy and enjoyable for your little one to follow.
‘Enjoyable’ is the hard part, though. If your kid doesn’t want to go to bed, they’re not going to find it too fun, are they?
The key here is to use positive reinforcement when setting up and practicing the routine. Giving attention throughout and praise for each successful step will make the whole process run smoother and help it to become an accepted, enjoyable routine.
Research out of Brazil into bedtime routines showed that a good routine has a “significant impact” on improving kids’ sleep. “In addition to improving the quality of sleep in children”, the study showed that a good bedtime routine also has “positive effects… on daytime behavior.”
When you think about it, we’ve got our own routines as adults, too. Whether it’s watching Netflix and scrolling Twitter or meditating and sipping herbal tea, we follow familiar patterns of behavior before we go to bed.
It’d be pretty strange if someone came up to us, took us to our bedroom, and said “go to sleep now”. It’s no surprise our kids can find it a bit unsettling, really.
Communication is key if we want our kids to get better sleep
One of the first steps to take if you want to improve your child’s sleep, before any behavioral concepts or scientific formulas, is to talk to them.
You don’t need us to tell you that kids are like sponges. Every bit of information they see or hear gets stored away (especially the stuff we’d rather they ignored!)
It could be that something’s going on in their incredibly active brain to cause their sleep struggles. If so, the best solution is to communicate with them:
- Sit down with them in the daytime when they’re happy and relaxed and ask them how they’re feeling about bedtime at the moment. You might be surprised to hear their thoughts.
- It’s really important not to judge, react to, or challenge what they say at this point. Just listen. Reflect their words back to them if you need clarification and truly hear them.
- Once you’ve listened, you need to act and follow up on what you hear.
If something’s scaring them about bedtime, comfort and reassure them.
If they feel left out, explain your bedtime routine and demystify what happens once their light goes out.
If they want to do something differently in their routine, hear them out and see if you can make some changes.
It’s amazing what comes out when we make the time and space to let our kids speak and share their feelings. Sometimes it’s ridiculous, sometimes it’s hilarious, but it’s always insightful.
Focus on kids’ disturbances and distractions for better sleep hygiene
‘Sleep hygiene’ is one of those very-21st-century phrases that’s cropping up everywhere. It’s the idea that we can adjust what we do and the environment we’re in to help us sleep better. Bedtime routines (like we mentioned earlier) are considered part of sleep hygiene, as well as temperature and light control in bedrooms, limiting late-night screen-time, and consistent wake-up times.
It’s usually mentioned in reference to adults, but children benefit from sleep hygiene, too. There’s one area of sleep hygiene that could be especially helpful for kids: limiting disturbances and distractions.
Kids’ rooms - filled with toys, gadgets, and books - are a Bermuda Triangle for sleep.
Not only are these visual disturbances, they’re also a lot more fun than sleep. If a kid has the option of playing another game of Minecraft instead of going to bed… well, we think we could predict the outcome.
In fact, Prof. Jan Van den Bulck suggests that any “unstructured leisure activities” “seem to be negatively related to good sleep patterns”.
Tidying toys, switching off electronics, and generally ‘shutting down’ all the distractions in their room will improve their sleep quality and could also be a good part of a bedtime routine you design together.
Your child’s sleep struggles might be down to discomfort
You can tell when something’s just not right with your little one, but knowing what’s wrong is a whole other situation.
It might seem a little obvious, but if your kid’s struggling to sleep, it’s worth checking that they’re healthy and well. We’re not here to scare or dramatize , but it’s never a bad idea to just keep an eye on their behavior and eating. Maybe check their temperature if needed.
Something you might not have considered, though, is that there might be a source of discomfort in their routine, bedroom, or day-to-day life. If your little one is unhappy in bed, it’s worth exploring whether there’s anything in the environment that’s making them unhappy:
- A fragrance or ingredient in your laundry detergent
- The fabric on their sheets and bedding
- Their bedroom temperature
Now, we totally get it. This is the sort of stuff you’d never think of until you know it. It’s also not that likely to be causing major problems, but it’s worth checking things like this if your child is mainly unhappy once they’re in bed, rather than in the lead-up to bedtime.
Some science-backed sleep help for your little buddy
By now, you’ve probably clocked that there’s a lot that can go into building better sleep for your kids.
And, look, sleep is tough. We get it. We’ve been there, done that, and got the bags under our eyes to prove it.
It's why we've created our naturally-sourced, melatonin-free Calming Probiotic and Chamomile Drops. They’ve become a big part of our bedtime routine and they’ll be a great addition to yours, too.
The drops combine comforting organic chamomile with a peaceful probiotic, to help calm digestive discomfort and relax before bedtime. They're the perfect way to make bedtime calm not chaotic.
We'll soon be launching the rest of our science-backed sleep regimen, made with high-quality natural ingredients, specially designed to be the perfect complement to your little one's bedtime routine.
Sleepier and (dare we say happier) bedtimes start here.
Trust us, you’re doing a good job
Sleep is such a common issue for parents. That doesn’t make it any easier, but take a little comfort in the fact that you are not the only parent having a bad time with bedtime! In fact, half of all parents say they’ve found it harder to get their kids to sleep since 2020.
The fact you’re even reading this post tells us you’re doing a great job. You care about your kids getting better sleep and you want to make things better for them (and yourself too, of course!)
And if you’re worried this is a 21st century problem, don’t sweat it. A comfortingly-hilarious and extensive literature review, published in The Official Journal of the American Academy for Pediatrics, showed that research into children’s sleep over the years has one thing in common:
“No matter how much sleep children are getting, it has always been assumed that they need more.”
Bad sleep is rarely a long-term problem for kids. Like most things our little ones go through, it’ll come and go in phases before, one day, stopping for good.
Parenting is the hardest, worst-paid, most thankless job in the world.
But the thing is, we’d all have quit by now if it wasn’t so darn brilliant.
We hope this post helps you make catching zzz’s a little easier, so you can get back to enjoying just how good it feels to be ‘mom’ or ‘dad’.
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