A recent study in the
journal Sleep showed that a consistent nighttime routine can help your
child fall asleep faster, sleep better and experience fewer and shorter
night wakings. Here is what experts recommend you do to establish a good bedtime routine that will carry from infancy into childhood:
six months, there should be a fairly predictable sleeping pattern,
including one or two naps during the day at predictable times and the
same bedtime each night.
Bathe your child before bed. The warm water helps to relax and soothe.
Massage infants or apply lotion to toddlers. This promotes bonding and relaxation.
Swaddle your infant. This will help them feel safe and secure in the early months.
Read a bedtime story, cuddle or sing. This serves as a signal that bedtime is next.
Tell your child it’s time to sleep.
Some children are soothed by the sound of a noise machine, which has little risk of dependence.
rock your baby or pick him up again unless he is very upset. Balance
your baby’s need to be comforted with allowing him to learn to soothe
Don’t let baby fall asleep at the breast or with a bottle.
letting baby hold on to your hair, finger, etc., when falling asleep
because she won’t get the opportunity to learn to fall asleep by
Sleep tips for older children
Corkum is associate professor of psychology at Dalhousie University in
Halifax and a member of the scientific staff at the IWK Health Centre.
She’s also the principal investigator of a treatment program being
developed for children between the ages of one and 10 who have trouble
falling and staying asleep. The Better Nights/Better Days
web-based program, which is being funded by the Canadian Institutes of
Health Research, will be launched in 2013.“As the parent of a teenager, I
know how hard it is to be consistent with bedtime routines, especially
on the weekends,” says Penny. “But for many kids who have trouble
sleeping, it’s an effective way to promote a solid night’s sleep.” She
has conducted studies showing a clear link between inadequate sleep –
even as little as one hour less than needed per night – and poor
academic performance and physical health problems. To ensure your
children get optimal sleep, Penny advises parents to adopt these World
Association of Sleep Medicine’s guidelines:
age-appropriate bedtime and wake time. Be as consistent as possible on
weekdays and weekends. Try not to vary the routine on weekends by any
more than 30 to 60 minutes.
Encourage your child to fall asleep independently.
Avoid bright lights at bedtime and during the night. Increase light exposure in the morning.
Maintain a regular daily schedule, including mealtimes.
Have an age-appropriate nap schedule.
Ensure that kids get plenty of exercise and time spent outdoors each day.
Keep all electronics (TVs, computers, cellphones) out of the bedroom. Limit their use before bedtime.
Restrict or eliminate foods and beverages containing caffeine, such as chocolate and colas.
Originally published in ParentsCanada, May/June 2012