6 Tips to Help Your Child Fall Asleep at Bedtime

Being a child takes an enormous amount of energy - and with all the growing, learning and running around they do, sleep is crucial for rest and recovery.

Typically, children spend forty percent of their time asleep, and although every child is different, in general, the younger the child, the more sleep they need. According to The Sleep Charity, while there is no hard and fast rule when it comes to the amount of time a child should sleep for, the general guide is:

  • Toddlers - around 12 hours a night
  • Children aged 3 to 6 - 10-12 hours a night
  • 7- to 12-year-olds - 10-11 hours a night
  • Teenagers - around 8-9 hours a night

A lack of sleep can result in an irritable child, and with it more tears and tantrums and less focus. If challenging bedtimes are ruling your household, resulting in overtired and fractious little ones, these tips for a gentle bedtime routine could help.

  1. The Bedtime Routine

Most parenting books stress the importance of a good bedtime routine which is the key to children getting a good night sleep. And for good reason. Bedtime should be relaxing and calm and become a ritual that ensures your little one feels comforted and secure. A combination of a relaxing bath, bedtime story and warm milk is a good place to start. Having a set bedtime, as well as a time to start your routine is important. Obviously, things happen that get in the way but the more often you stick to the plan the easier bedtime can be. It's also important to stick to routines on weekends or at holiday time. You can adapt the routine in terms of time, but keeping the same routine will help when the school year starts, or the weekend is over.

  1. A Safe Place

Childrens' bedrooms should be conducive to sleep - dark, cool, and quiet. Soft bed linen and a warm duvet will ensure that your child feels safe and warm in their bedroom. If they have a favourite teddy or fluffy bedtime companion, then make sure that they're part of the cosy bedtime routine too. You can get your child to tuck them up in bed with them.

If your little one gets nervous in the dark, then think about getting them a nightlight to give them that added peace of mind. There are so many options available, from simple lamps to projectors that send images of stars and planets across the ceiling.

Before they come into their room for the night, set the room up: put the PJs on the bed, have the lights dimmed, switch the nightlight on, close the curtains, and have their bedtime story ready to go. This peaceful and calm atmosphere should help set the tone for bedroom and will provide a lovely, chilled space for them to unwind in before sleep.

  1. A Comfy Bed

A comfortable bed and mattress is a must when it comes to helping your child drift off. The bed design should be one which fits your child and allows them plenty of room to stretch and wriggle in their dreams. For younger children, a small cot bed is perfect as it has a side rail to stop them rolling out. As they get bigger, a single 3 foot bed is ideal.

A supportive mattress is essential for sleep at any age, so invest in a mattress which is robust and good quality. An open-coil mattress is great for children, as it is supportive and comfy. It will also withstand bed bouncing!

  1. Bedtime Stories

Story time is a great element of a bedtime routine. It's a fantastic way to draw them away from electronic and digital devices which keep them alert and for you to spend quality time together. Because lights keep children stimulated, it's often a good idea to tell your child the last story in the dark, or by the light of their nightlight. Use a calm and quiet voice to help lull them to sleep. Creating imaginative stories is a great way to help them fall asleep because you don't need a reading light, and it encourages their imagination and creativity.

  1. Relaxation

Different things relax different people, so you might have to try a few different things until you find the right one for your child. Gentle yoga stretches, lavender pillow sprays, back rubs, listening to soothing music or a gentle audiobook may help your child wind down as will snuggling up with their favourite cuddly toy or comfort blanket.

  1. Food and Drink

You may well have warm milk in mind as a soothing drink before bedtime, but other foods could be considered as part of the bedtime routine. Foods that contain the essential amino acid, tryptophan, trigger a sleepy response from our bodies. Turkey is a good source, and although you may not want to eat that every night, it is also found in foods such as bananas and yoghurt as well as milk, and can easily be introduced into a bedtime routine.

It seems obvious to limit liquids before bedtime, but children will often tell you they are thirsty before bed. Having just a controlled sip or two of water before bed, just to wet their whistle, is probably better than leaving a glass or bottle beside their bed, especially if they aren't yet sleeping through the night and may drink more later.