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The Sleep War: Curbing the Struggle with a Bedtime Routine

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By Rachel Derry
Staff Writer LIFamilies

Have difficulty getting your little one to sleep every night? Just like adults, when children don’t have a set internal schedule, havoc can ensure due to uncertainty. Children want to be able to stay awake as long as they can to spend time with those they love. When their bodies don’t have a habitual sleep schedule, they are uncertain of when to be tired and when the proper time to go to sleep is; this is where the tantrums and anger come in. Help end your days peacefully by setting a proper sleep schedule for your little one to follow.

First off, try to ensure that the last major meal of your child’s day is eaten long before bedtime. When their stomach is full, it can be uncomfortable and difficult to sleep. Some foods will even result in an additional energy surge, making it even harder for them to settle down. Try to avoid all food with caffeine at least 6 hours before bed, as well.

Establish a routine for your child to transition them into sleep. Make sure that bed time is at the same time every night. The last 20 to 30 minutes before bed should have a regular, relaxing routine with you, away from the television. Lay them down and read them a favorite story to lull them to sleep. Television can act as a stimulant, so try not to include it in those last 20 minutes or so. Also, try reading a favorite story each night, opposed to a new one. A favorite story has a familiarity that doesn't entice children to stay awake until the end.

Make sure that your child’s room is comfortable for sleeping through the night. Make sure that their blankets are loose and not movement restricting. Also, make sure that the room isn't too hot or too cold, to wake them in discomfort in the middle of the night. Have a subdued light lit out of immediate vision if they need one in the room. This will keep it from further stimulating your child awake.

Try to break any habits of needing to be rocked or sang to sleep. Once a child can only fall asleep being rocked or sang to, they don’t have any natural means of self soothing back to sleep if they happen to wake up in the middle of the night. They will always need your help to get back to sleep. Transition away from the habit slowly and try replacing it with a tangible sleep aid, such as a favorite stuffed animal or blanket.

Finally, if your child does get up after they have been put to bed, remain firm, but gentle, that it is bed time and they must go to sleep. Reinforcing the bedtime ritual and habit will diminish the bedtime tantrums, because your child’s body will habitually put them to sleep around the set bed time. Also, if your child calls out for you, whether right after being tucked in or in the middle of the night, don’t immediately respond. If you give them a moment before responding, they are reminded that it is time for sleep and will often times fall right back to sleep while waiting.

Long Island Family Life & Parenting Articles > The Sleep War: Curbing the Struggle with a Bedtime Routine

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