Restful sleep is about falling asleep and staying asleep. Most children wake up on time if they’re getting the right quality rest. If your child is having trouble falling asleep or waking up, here are a few questions you can ask to get things back on track.
What should be in the bedtime ritual?
Think of activities that will help your child wind down — a warm bath, soft music, reading stories, and cuddling, for example. Some parents like to start the bedtime routine with a high-protein snack, like string cheese or nuts. The most important thing is that you follow the routine religiously — decide on a schedule that works best for everyone, and commit to it.
How do I know if it’s a sleep disorder?
If you suspect your child is having trouble sleeping because of a sleep disorder, talk to your family doctor. You can monitor sleep habits with wearable devices like FitBit, but remember, these alone are not enough to give you a diagnosis. You can also consider filming your child while they sleep in order to record possible signs of sleep apnea.
What do they really need to sleep with?
Toddlers and slightly older kids might start pulling more and more stuffed animals and books into bed with them. For teens, it might be phones. All of these things can be distractions. Start early with rules against bringing too many items to bed, and for babies and infants, be sure you are following the “Back to Sleep” guidelines from the American Academy of Pediatrics.
How much sleep does my child actually need?
The old cliche of the teenager sleeping until noon used to perpetuate the stereotype that teens are lazy, but in actuality, they really do need about 10 hours of sleep each night. If you’ve been waking your child up before they’ve hit their number, you can try starting bedtime earlier. Be sure you are setting up sleep patterns (including not napping too early or too late in the day) that result in healthy nighttime sleep quality.
This isn’t a problem you are going to resolve quickly, so have patience with your child and yourself. The solutions will come soon enough as long as you are making the effort.