Let's face it -- when your kids or baby don't sleep, you don't either. And not only is that exhausting, but lack of sleep can lead to health issues that no one wants. Not only is getting better sleep good for you, but it's also essential that kids and babies get enough rest each night.
If you're struggling to get your baby or child to sleep at night, you can use several tried-and-true strategies to make the whole process better. Some of them may take some time to implement, but everyone benefits once you enforce better sleep habits for your kids.
If anyone knows about the best Can't-miss tips for sleep, it's professional sleep coaches who specialise in helping babies and kids sleep better. So I talked to two sleep experts for their best advice -- keep reading below for their tips.
- Teach your babies and kids to sleep independently: It may sound counterintuitive, but sometimes you are the reason why your baby can't fall asleep or stay asleep. lLearning sleep independence is key for babies and kids. "Instead of being rocked or fed to sleep, they should be put in their cribs wide-awake to fall asleep on their own. This will allow them to fall asleep more quickly and sleep for longer stretches throughout the night. Babies sleep in cycles and wake up briefly after each cycle stage. During the arousal, they do a quick scan to ensure their environment is consistent with bedtime. This is a protective mechanism to ensure no danger. If you're helping your baby to fall asleep (i.e. by rocking, feeding, bouncing, etc.), then they will be alarmed that they are no longer in your arms, which will lead to a full wake-up. They will need you to help them fall back to sleep," says Murray. This is why it's important to let them learn to sleep independently, so when they wake up, they can go back to sleep without being alarmed or scared. Murray says the same goes for kids, even if you are tempted to lay with them when falling asleep. If you are present when they fall asleep, they will need you present in the middle of the night when connecting sleep cycles. If their sleep is fragmented, they won't feel well-rested the next day and will be extra grumpy.
- Time naps and bedtime well: For babies, it's important to make sure that they are not awake for too long between their nap and bedtime. If you do, then their body will produce cortisol -- the alert hormone --, and they will then become overstimulated, which will make it harder for them to fall asleep and stay asleep. Speaking of cortisol and overstimulation -- you also need to limit sugar intake for kids after lunch. When we consume sugar, our bodies produce cortisol to lower glucose levels. Cortisol is a stimulating hormone, so having too much of it in their systems will make it difficult to sleep well.
- Set up a sleep 'cave' environment: A dark, cool, and quiet environment are ideal for everyone to get their best night's sleep, including babies. Aim to have their sleep environment mimic a little cave. It should be dark, cool, and quiet. Cover your baby's windows with blackout curtains to ensure that it's dark enough, says Murray. It's best to wait until your child is about two and a half years old to use a nightlight when they commonly develop a fear of the dark. The best sleep temperature is 68 to 72 degrees Fahrenheit, which you can monitor with a tabletop thermometer if there is not one installed in the room already. Don't forget to prevent noise and any sounds outside or inside the house from waking sleeping kids, which you can do with a sound machine. Bonus points if the sound machine offers brown noise, as it is lower frequency and more soothing than white noise.
- Keep a predictable sleep schedule and routine: Kids and babies thrive on a predictable, consistent routine for bedtime and sleep, according to Arielle Greenleaf, chief education officer at Restful and Rest Academy and Motherfigure sleep coach. "In addition, remember that babies and children need a lot of sleep to remain well-rested. Preventing your babies and children from becoming overtired (with that predictable schedule!) will help ensure they sleep well. Children will often try to push you to play, read or watch TV at night when it's time for bed -- they never want the fun to end. But it's important to keep their bedtime consistent to ensure they get enough quality rest. Ensure that you maintain firm, clear and consistent boundaries at bedtime. Tell your child that they are to lay quietly in their bed until morning when you turn the lights off. When your child is allowed to get out of bed and make multiple requests (such as an extra hug or drink), it leads to overtiredness. They then have trouble sleeping.
According to recent data, sleep satisfaction and duration among new parents suffer — and don’t recover until the kiddo is 4 to 6 years old. But that doesn’t mean there aren’t concrete steps you can take to improve your situation, including your baby’s ability to fall and stay asleep (so you can, too).
Whether you’re reading this month before you deliver or are in the throes of a middle-of-the-night scream session, we've got you covered.
Baby Nursery FAQs
3-6 months: what to expect from baby sleep
Babies might start moving towards a pattern of 2-3 daytime sleeps of up to two hours each. And night-time sleep gets longer at this age. For example, some babies might be having long sleep of six hours at night by the time they're six months old.
The secret to speedy snoozing is to rub your hand gently over a baby's head and eyes, then repeat until they nod off, in just under a minute if this dad's example is anything to go by.
Most issues related to a baby not sleeping are caused by temporary things like illness, teething, developmental milestones or changes in routine — so the occasional sleep snafu likely isn't anything to worry about.
In short, dealing with nighttime disruptions is often simply a part of new parenthood. Most issues related to a baby not sleeping are caused by temporary things like illness, teething, developmental milestones or changes in routine — so the occasional sleep snafu likely isn't anything to worry about.
If your baby is taking a 30-minute nap or less, she is likely overtired and needs less time between naps. If your baby is waking up 45 minutes into a nap, she is likely not tired enough and needs more wake time.
Tips To Get Your Infant To Fall Asleep Quickly
The sooner your little one settles into bed, the sooner you can get some well-deserved shut-eye yourself. Though, getting your baby to fall asleep can be much easier said than done.
When the usual lullaby or pre-bedtime snuggle session doesn’t work, here are a few other reliable tips for moms and dads when they want to lull their child to sleep quickly.
Enforce An Early Bedtime
Experts have agreed that an early bedtime is an effective way to ensure your baby is sleepy when it’s time to be put down for bed. Around eight weeks, babies experience increased melatonin, a hormone that signals your body when it’s time to go to bed.
Melatonin levels tend to increase soon after the sun sets, and if your baby is kept awake too long, they’ll become overstimulated and difficult to put to sleep.
Having a regular, early bedtime around 6.30 p.m. or 7 p.m. helps maintain their sleeping patterns and keeps their sleep-wake cycle more consistent. Research has shown that 18-month-old babies with late bedtimes are more likely to develop issues relating to motor function, social skills and language.
Irregular or late bedtimes can also hurt their behavioural issues as they get older and even their ability to focus in school.
Create A Comfortable Environment
Your baby’s bedroom environment should make them feel comfortable, relaxed, and, most importantly — sleepy. Night lights are popular among young children, but be smart about placement and how bright the light is. Light influences melatonin levels in the body and can prevent/delay the hormone from releasing at the time it should.
They certainly don’t need a bed as nice as yours, but your child’s mattress should still be comfortable enough to sleep, especially if you want them to fall asleep quickly. Infants and children exert very little pressure onto a bed because they weigh so little, so they’ll need something soft that cradles and supports their little bodies.
Put Them Down When They’re Drowsy (Not Asleep)
If you’re waiting until your baby is asleep to tuck them into their crib, you’re putting them down too late. When your baby eventually wakes up in the middle of the night, they might become confused or agitated after not recognising their surroundings — considering they fell asleep on your shoulder in the living room. Then they’ll need to rely on you to go back to sleep, and that’s what you want to be weaning them off of.
Eventually, around 5-6 months, babies can ease themselves to sleep without you. It’s up to the parent, however, to help them reach the point where they’re comfortable to do so.
Accordingly, it would help if you took your child to bed when you notice they’re feeling drowsy so they can drift off to sleep without having you by their side. Signs of drowsiness include calmness, blank staring, closed fists, yawning, or jerky leg and arm movements.
Don’t Always Rush To Their Crib side.
If you’re a first-time parent especially, it can be hard to resist the urge to rush to their bed when they’re crying in the middle of the night. It’s important, though, to hold off a few moments before you tend to them if you know they’re taken care of (fed, diaper changed, etc.).
The goal is to encourage your child to calm themselves down without you. If that doesn’t work, professionals suggest you try the “soothing ladder” technique.
Start by patting and rubbing, but don’t pick them up yet. You don’t want to be too intrusive right off the bat, or you risk waking them up even more. Then, you can work your way up to rocking, and feeding them should be the last resort if you still can’t get them to fall back asleep.
This will inevitably occur more often with babies under 3-4 months old, and you’ll need to keep practising the soothing ladder method until your baby learns to self-soothe on their own.
Practice A Relaxing Nighttime Routine
If your baby’s brain is stimulated too close to bedtime, it will be close to impossible for them to fall asleep as quickly as you want them to. By the time your baby is about 6-8 weeks old, you should both be implementing relaxing activities into your nightly schedule.
Incorporating a consistent routine helps indicate to your baby that it’s time to sleep. Their body will begin to recognise that it’s bedtime once their routine becomes a regular practice.
About 20 minutes before bed, reduce noise and light pollution in your home to help wind them down. Then, try to incorporate relaxing activities that your child enjoys, like a warm bath or a soft read-aloud.
Research has shown that your child is never too young for story-time, and you can even start reading to them as soon as they leave the hospital with you.
Newborn babies till the age of five to six months suffer from a startle reflex, in which they feel as if they are falling. This sensation breaks their sleep, and babies wake up crying or being irritated. Swaddle your baby tightly to avoid this random rising of the baby. Also, it helps your baby sleep better and feel safer. Swaddling makes your baby feel like she is still in your womb, protected from all external factors. A soft and comfy swaddle is best to keep your baby away from any sleep sensations which can hinder her sound sleep.
Power of Dream Feeding
You must have heard of dream feeding. It is the feeding given to the baby before you go to sleep. Feeding your baby before your bedtime is a best practice that helps you and your baby to get enough sleep through the night. Often babies wake in the middle of the night feeling hungry. Hence, feed your baby before you go to sleep so that both of you can sleep comfortably and feel perfectly healthy in the morning. Also, by practising this feeding method, your baby can sleep through the night without interruption.
Babies are new to the world, and they cannot understand when to rise and sleep. Your responsibility is to make them aware of their routine by repeating the same order of activities for your baby. For example, make an activities chart that includes all the activities for your baby in proper order so that your baby can know what to do next. It works for most parents as your baby’s behaviour becomes predictable.
Try Soothing Music
Many moms love to tell bedtime stories or sing songs to their newborn babies as it soothes their minds. Music is a very effective remedy to calm down a baby and make her feel sleepy. (Plus, music has many other benefits.) You can pick any music that is soothing and relaxing so that it does excite your baby and allow her to feel relaxed.
Stick to Eat-Wake-Sleep Rhythm
One of the popular baby cycles is Eat-Wake-Sleep. This cycle begins as the day starts, and then it goes on. A full baby can sleep properly without being disturbed. Hence, you should give this a try for making your baby fall asleep faster regularly.
Avoid Too Much Excitement
Babies are easily distracted. A moment back, she might be feeling drowsy, and, a moment later, she is wide awake. Everything around them is new to babies. Therefore, they get excited about everything around them. It can be a bright colour, a new toy might be your clothes or dog, and the list continues. Make sure you keep things normal and less exciting for your baby so they will grow calm.
Let Them Sleep After Being Drowsy
Sometimes, you may stay with your baby until she is completely asleep. It is a practice that can make your baby need you to fall asleep. Therefore, once your baby starts feeling sleepy, lay her down to bed and let her fall asleep by herself. It’s good for her sleep habits as you might not be there every time.
Importance Of Sleep For Infants
Sleep plays an essential role in anyone’s mental and physical health, but this sentiment is particularly true for babies as it is crucial for their cognitive and physical development.
Sleep deprivation in these crucial early stages of life can lead to problems down the road like hyperactivity, negative or aggressive behaviour, mood swings, and or anxiety.
There are two stages of sleep; REM and non-REM. Babies spend half their time in each stage, but at about six months, they spend about 30% of the time in REM. For infants, REM sleep helps prepare their brains for retaining new information, which is critical for effective learning.
During non-REM sleep, on the other hand, their body builds muscle tissue and releases a hormone pertinent to their growth and development.
Here is a helpful table to help you determine whether or not your baby is getting enough sleep.
- Newborns: 16 hours (with naps)
- One month: 15.5 hours (with naps)
- Three months: 15 hours (with naps)
- Six months: 14 hours (with naps)
- Nine months: 14 hours (with naps)
- One year: 14 hours (with naps)
- 1.5 years: 13.5 hours (with naps)
- Two years: 13 hours (with naps)
Sleep is extremely crucial for your baby’s development. Your life will be full of amazing moments with your little sweetheart. Watching your baby grow is an amazing feeling. It may take some time to figure out how to get a baby to sleep because you and your baby will have to get a feel for each other and what works best. Hang in there. You will get this parenting thing before long and be a pro!