If your children’s bedtime is tiring you out, there are ways to make it better. First, create a consistent, calm bedtime routine. A warm bath, books, massage or yoga are wonderful ways to relax your child. If your child gets worked up in the bath, or they do not like it, it is fine to move it earlier in the day. Try to pick activities that you will be able to do every night. Children love consistency and by having the same routine every night, they will know that sleep time is coming. Dimming the lights in your house about an hour before bedtime is a good way to let the body know that it will be sleep time soon as well.
Another important way to make bedtime better is to make your child’s sleep environment conducive to sleep. At night, our body temperature decreases. In a warm room, our body has to work harder to decrease our temperature, which means sleep can be more disrupted. Studies have shown that temperatures of 68 – 72 are best for sleep. The room should be fairly dark and quiet. If there are outside noises that may disrupt your child’s sleep, you can get a white noise machine to block them out. If the light coming in from the windows bothers your child, you should look into room darkening blinds. Nightlights are a personal choice for you and your child. Some children do better with no light, some with a little. The light should not be too bright however, or your child’s body may not produce the sleep inducing hormone melatonin.
Make sure your children are going to bed at the right time so they can get the right amount of sleep for their age. Do not make the mistake of thinking that keeping them awake late (or skipping naps if they should still be taking them) will make bedtime easier. When you put a child to bed after their “sleep window” (the time they are naturally ready to go to sleep), their body begins producing the stress hormone cortisol instead of the calming hormone melatonin. Once cortisol is released, it is harder for your child to go to sleep; they are more likely to wake during the night, and more likely to wake earlier in the morning. This same thing happens if you put an overtired child to sleep. Our wake up times or bedtimes should vary by more than an hour on any given day. So yes, sleeping in on the weekends is actually not recommended – sorry!
Make bedtime a positive experience, never a punishment. Children should know how important sleep is for their health and happiness. Let them know that their body is growing and fixing things at night. When they get enough sleep, they are happier the next day.
Consistency is the most important thing when trying to change a behavior. Have a consistent bedtime routine, be consistent with what time you put your child to sleep and be consistent to how you respond to child. This should help in making bedtime better for everyone!