Sleep is vital to children’s health, wellbeing, learning and development. It is important to ensure children have the correct amount of sleep so they have enough energy for the next day’s activities.
When babies are put into bed drowsy but not asleep, they are more likely to learn to ‘self- soothe’. This means they will be able to fall asleep independently and also go back to sleep when they wake during the night.
For those who have been soothed until they fall asleep this becomes a habit and they may become dependent on this routine to fall asleep and when they wake during the night.
By establishing a good bedtime routine which helps your child to settle to sleep and to stay asleep will support them to develop a healthy independent sleep pattern.
Encourage your child to be active during the day and spend some of the day outside. This will give them exposure to natural daylight and help them to feel tired at the end of the day with the benefit of a more restful sleep.
Encourage a healthy diet with regular meal times. Avoid a large meal too close to bedtime. Having a light snack at bedtime will ensure your child is not hungry and can help them to settle to sleep e.g. a drink of milk and slice of whole-meal toast.
Caffeine has a stimulant effect and can prevent people from feeling tired. Caffeine is found in tea, coffee, chocolate, cola, fizzy drinks and energy drinks. These should always be avoided in the afternoon and evening and should be limited throughout the day.
It is important to decide on a bedtime which is suitable for your child’s age. Putting them to bed at the same time each night and waking them at the same time each morning; including at weekends will strengthen their body clock and help them to develop a regular sleep and wake cycle.
To help your child get a good night’s sleep there may be changes you can make within their bedroom. The room should be a comfortable temperature being neither too warm nor too cold. A quiet, dark, calm environment with toys tidied away will encourage sleep. Use a nightlight if your child is frightened of the dark. Where possible reduce any external noise within the household.
If your child will not settle to sleep by themselves and needs you with them this is a useful method of helping them to learn to settle to sleep alone. Rather than leaving your child to cry, you can gradually increase the distance between you and your child over a period of time until they no longer need you beside them to fall asleep. This can take a period of weeks and should begin with you sitting on a chair by the child's bedside and gradually moving the distance of the chair from the bedside until you are able to sit outside the door. If your child wakes you should return to the stage you were at when you had settled your child to sleep.