After a week of family-wide stomach flu, I’m again reminded of the value of sleep. I’ve found sleep—or the total lack thereof—to be one of the biggest adjustments when it comes to parenthood. Good rest is of course important for adults and children—lack of sleep has been linked to depression, anxiety, obesity, immunity problems, diabetes, and even ADHD. However, sometimes helping our kids get the sleep they need is easier said than done. Here are some things that I have found helpful… some advice from other parents, some from experts, and some from plain old trial and error.
1) Consistency—My dude is not a very consistent baby, but bedtime we stick to. He goes to bed within the same ½ hour window every night. It helps him sleep and gives me a predictable end time on those days where, well, I just need an end time.
2) No distractions—We have no toys, stuffed animals, or anything too exciting within reach of the crib. We don’t play in it—it is designated as a sleep-only zone. Down the road, this will also mean no TVs, computers, etc. in the bedroom. I assessed many children as a school psychologist whose only problem was that they stayed up watching TV until 3:00 AM.
3) Noise—I made fun of my sister when she used to take her baby’s white noise maker with her everywhere she went. Now we don’t travel without ours. I’ve found it has multiple benefits—it teaches my kiddo to sleep with noise while blocking out other, more disturbing noises, especially when we’ve traveled. Plus, when we do travel, it is something familiar in an unfamiliar environment. Finally, he is so used to sleeping when he hears his “sound” that now I swear just hearing it makes him sleepy!
4) Developing Sleep Skills—I’m a believer that kids need to develop the ability to put themselves to sleep and not rely on parents to get them there. Teaching these can be tough, but my life sure seems easier now that my dude’s got some skills of his own.
5) Good Sleep Environment—I was baffled that the best my child’s ever slept was in an unfamiliar CLOSET over Christmas break, until I figured out that it was because the closet was pitch black. He napped like crazy. We came home and I adjusted his bedroom accordingly.
What do you think? What has helped you teach your child good sleep habits? Or, just as importantly, how do you ensure that you, as a parent, get the sleep you need?