Natural Sleep Remedies and Sleep Tips for Children
by A. Grano
Fact: The average five-year old needs approximately 11 hours of sleep each night. For many parents, putting kids to bed is an uphill battle. Your child is often past the point of being exhausted and over-tired, and may fight sleeping to the point of tears or tantrums. Parents are often left longing for those elusive few hours of quiet and a full night’s rest!
There are many factors that may lead to childhood insomnia and sleep disturbances. Most commonly,behavioral issues surrounding bedtime are the likely cause. Children tend to resist going to sleep for a variety of reasons, be it that they see an older sibling still awake or they relate sleep time to ‘banishment’ and a form of being excluded. Most often this can be rectified with appropriate healthy routines and structure.
Similarly, children tend to fear bedtime, and may have increased anxiety due to fears of the dark, or separation anxiety from mom and dad. This may lead to problematic sleep patterns (for the whole family!). Usually a comforting bedtime environment can alleviate nighttime anxiety and worries.
Check out our tips to make bedtime as easy as possible – after all, good sleep means good moods for both you and your kids!
- Make the change! So you’ve decided that bad sleeping habits need to change – the trickiest part with be to stick to your changes once made. This won’t be easy at first, as it may require lots of patience, support from other family members and large amounts of initial resistance from your child. Remember – children like routine and consistency, and the bad habits set in place now have become the routine that comforts them!
- Create a positive bedtime routine. Once you decide on a regular bedtime, establish a quiet unwinding time where you begin to calm your child and reduce stimulation (30 minutes before starting the bedtime routine). This may include switching the TV off, sitting chatting quietly, or reading a story. Include bathtime in your regular routine, as the soothing warmth will help prepare your child’s body for rest. Be sure not to over-stimulate your child – bathing siblings together may cause the element of fun play to create over excited behavior). Try dimming the lights and talking in hushed tones. It’s also a time for brushing teeth, putting them to bed and reading them a short story or having a conversation about the day. After half an hour of quiet-time, tell them it’s sleep-time and kiss them good-night. Your child will begin to realize that all these rituals mean time to sleep and the repetitive sequence of events will become comforting and calming. The key is to be consistent. Your routine should be the same each night, so that your child learns to anticipate sleep as part of the routine and has structure to follow.
- Make beds the place for bedtime. Many children will fall asleep on the couch in front of the TV, or only in the presence of their parents. Children then wake up in the night feeling disorientated and confused as they’re now in their own rooms (not where they fell asleep) and will come to find you for reassurance. This is often a difficult cycle to break and your child may resist at first. Remember that a few bad nights is a small sacrifice for a new good habit. Not only is this a better routine for you, but it will help your child feel more comfortable falling asleep by themselves.
- Start good habits early. If at all possible, try starting off good sleep routines early when your child is still a baby. Putting toddlers to bed when they are sleepy, but not yet asleep, will reduce their dependency on you to be with them as they drift off to sleep. Resist the urge to jump to your baby’s attention the minute he or she stirs or cries (provided it’s not feeding or diaper change time). If you try waiting a few minutes; babies will often fall back asleep on their own and learn that they are capable of soothing themselves. Move your child’s bedtime up a little if he or she frequently wakes during the night.
- Bedtime means bedtime. Don’t let your child continuously get up for “one last thing” or “to say goodnight to the dog, cat, picture of granny” etc. Children may try to create excuses to get out of bed – avoiding sleep at all costs! Ensure that they have no reason to get out of bed by making sure they’ve been to the toilet and have a glass of water on their bedside table before lights out. If your child tries to engage you by calling you often or getting out of bed to find you, don’t engage back with conversation and discussions. Remain calm when your child calls for you. Becoming bothered – or any over reaction, will only add to the sense of bedtime becoming a ‘game’. Rather keep answers short and simply say “bedtime” before putting children straight back to sleep. Leave the room while your child is still awake, giving reassurance that you are still in the house if he or she needs you. Reassure your child that you will come back and check on him or her during the night. If you keep this behavior up long enough, your child will eventually realize that you mean business.
- Introduce a comfort item. This could be a favorite soft toy or a comforting blanket that will make your child feel safe and secure. Allow soft music or a nightlight with the bedroom door open. Try avoiding bottles as a bedtime comfort, as they can result in dental problems and potty-training difficulties.
- Active days mean peaceful nights. Instill the idea that daytime is for play and evenings mean calm down time. Keep your little one active during the day with plenty of stimulation, and slowly tone things down towards the evening. This will teach your child that daylight means activity and night means time to sleep. Restrict excitable activities at night such as TV, games, rough and tumble and running about, while encouraging quieter activities in the evening such as puzzles, coloring, or quiet quality time.
- Nighttime through nature. Many natural remedies are safe for children and provide an effective non-addictive solution to night time troubles. Chamomile has long been known as the world’s most soothing plant and has been used by mothers of many generations to safely relax their young children and induce a state of peaceful sleepiness. As an added benefit, Chamomile also calms digestive upsets and colic, soothes teething toddlers and relaxes anxious children. Children who are suffering from depression or anxiety may have frequent sleep disturbances or trouble sleeping. Natural remedies containing St. John’s wort and Passiflora incarnata can be used to promote emotional and psychological well-being.
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