As an adult, there is nothing more satisfying than an extra nine minutes in bed, which is why we press the snooze button an average of 32 times every morning before finally dragging ourselves up and out and into the dreaded “real world”.
Kids, however, see this whole sleep thing slightly differently, in that they fight it with every fibre of their body. You get:
- Toddler’s begging for “just one more story” even though you’ve just read the Julia Donaldson equivalent of the Bible.
- Small-schoolers struggling to settle because they’re scared of having bad dreams again.
- Preteens that leap onto their knees the moment you walk into the living room at bedtime, their hands pressed together as they plead for “just five more minutes of mindless television-slash-Youtube” before the lights get turned out.
Basically, bedtime can be a bit of a battle, which can be hard to understand, especially as parents that believe a good night’s sleep is worth more than a De Beers diamond. But, for kids, bedtime is just another example of adults being lame and boring and playing the all too familiar role of fun sponge. They just don’t get how good it is, or how good the health benefits are, and that can make you dread bedtime.
With that in mind, we’ve pulled together a few tips to help you wave ba-bye to your kids as they hop on the fast train to Sleepville, which is located at the bottom of Mount Nod.
- A Regular Routine Is Life
This is the secret to a successful bedtime. For everyone. For you, your teenage daughter, your four-year-old son, your toddler twins, everyone. The reason for this is part-placebo and part-science because, not only does a routine help you unwind at the end of the day, your brain will know sleep is next on the menu and trigger that feeling of sleepiness. To get the most out of this technique, make sure your bedtime routine lasts between thirty minutes and an hour, and consists of nothing but tranquilising activities that end in bed. Things like a warm bath, chomping on a sleep-inducing snack, putting on their pyjamas, reading a story or two, saying some special words (like “I love you to the moon and back”) and then – wham! – lights out.
- It’s Power Down Time
Screens have become a part of everyday life. Televisions, phones, tablets, laptops, desktops and all those other wireless electronics we’ve not heard of. Hours and hours of screen time is not uncommon, especially among older kids – preteens and upward. The problem is, holding a device that emits a bright-blue light four inches from their face isn’t going to help them slip off to sleep. Nope. Not a chance. In fact, it’s one of the most common reasons for sleep deprivation. Our advice: no glowing screens at least 90-minutes before bed. Okay, that’s not actually our advice, it’s what scientists are saying and they’re saying it because artificial light from screens is enough to mess with the brain’s melatonin levels (that’s the hormone that boosts sleep). So, if you want your kids to fall asleep on time and without a battle, try enforcing a screen-free zone for that last 90 minutes of the day.
- Scared Of The Dark
Kids have the most incredible and unrivalled imaginations. It’s like each child is a young Guillermo Del Toro as they run around turning your garden shed into a troll filled fairy castle, your office chair into a valiant steed and the airing cupboard at the top of the stairs into a time-machine that will transport them to the year 4021, when space-dinosaurs have come back to regain control of the earth. The issue is, their imaginations can also make lights out a terrifying time. Monsters beneath the bed, witches in the wardrobe, evil marshmallow giants taking over the city – all sorts. As such, nightmares can become pretty common. Luckily, there are some things you can do to help them overcome this fear:
- Use their imagination for good by telling them Mr Pickles (or whatever their favourite stuffed toy is called) will protect them while they are asleep, or do what William Hunter Howell of My Mad Little Family did and have a “Fairy Godmother” come in and put a spell on their bedroom door that stops all monsters from getting in.
- Help your child know their room is safe by adding a “monster check” to their bedtime routine. It doesn’t have to be strenuous, just a quick check beneath their bed, in their wardrobe, behind the curtains, that sort of thing.
- Yes, a pitch black room is the best thing for sleep, but if they really are scared of the dark then pop a nightlight in their room. To make this work wonders, let them come nightlight-shopping with you and then plug it in on the other side of the room so that it a) isn’t too close to their face and b) lights up the darkest parts of their room.
- A quick bedroom rearrange can really help your kid overcome their sleep. Things like moving their bed into the corner so there are fewer ways the monster under their bed can get to them, or so that they get more of the corridor light, are great changes to make and can make bedtime a whole lot easier on you.
- Snacks Make Bedtime Better
We’re not talking about a bowl of Frosted Flakes or a Twix-Extra. We’re talking about snacks that are proven to encourage sleepiness. If you want to learn loads about this little tip, then we recommend you read our blog post “Bedtime Snacks To Help You Beat Insomnia”. In the meantime, however, we recommend you get into the habit of giving your kids walnuts, bananas, warm milk, honey, or houmous to snack on before bed. These will have them yawning and snoring in no time at all.
- Create A Sleep-Happy Bedroom
As adults, we tend to spoil ourselves on the bedroom front by turning them into sleep havens. We’re talking dark and quiet rooms at the perfect temperature, sometimes with a small dollop of crashing waves to help us drift off. Well, your kids aren’t that different and neither are their needs. So, if there is something in their bedroom that is keeping them awake, try and find a solution to it. Get a blackout blind or some heavier drapes, invest in a fan for those hot summer nights and plonk a lullaby machine on top of their chest of drawers; anything that might make the room a little more sleep-friendly.
- Mother Nature To the Rescue
Every now and then, we all need some assistance getting to sleep, the problem is we can’t give our kids 7.5mg of zopiclone or anything like that (spoiler alert: it’s frowned upon). The good news is, there are plenty of natural remedies out there that can help. Anyway, cutting straight to it, we’ve heard that aromatherapy is the most effective. For those who don’t know what this is, it’s the use of essential plant oils to improve both your mood and your health and all you need to do is breath it in. Our advice: try putting a few drops of lavender oil on your kid’s pillow before bed or, if they don’t drift off to this, make them a mug of honey and chamomile tea to enjoy before bed. Delicious and nutritious.
Article by William Hunter Howell
Founder of Copper Milk Creative