Let's face it -- when your kids or baby don't sleep, you don't either. And not only is that exhausting, but can lead to health issues that no one wants. Not only is good for you, 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, there are several tried-and-true strategies you can use to make the whole process better. Some of them may take some time to implement, but once you do enforce better sleep habits for your kids, everyone benefits.
If anyone knows about the best can't-miss tips for sleep, it's professional sleep coaches who specialize in helping babies and kids sleep better. So I talked to two sleep experts for their best advice -- keep reading below for their tips.
1. 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. According to Kelly Murray, certified pediatric and adult sleep consultant and sleep coach for Motherfigure, learning 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, as well as to sleep for longer stretches throughout the night," says Murray. According to Murray, this happens because babies sleep in cycles and wake up briefly after each stage of the cycle. "During the arousal, they do a quick scan to make sure their environment is consistent with bedtime. This is a protective mechanism to ensure there is no danger," says Murray.
"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 then need you to help them fall back to sleep," says Murray. This is why it's important to let them learn to sleep on their own 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 they are 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," says Murray.
2. Time naps and bedtime well
For babies, it's important to make sure that they are not awake for too long between theirand 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," says Murray.
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 our glucose levels. Cortisol is a stimulating hormone, so having too much of it in their systems will make it difficult for them to sleep well," says Murray.
3. Set up a sleep 'cave' environment
A dark, cool, and quiet environment is ideal for everyone to get their best night's sleep -- and that includes babies. "Aim to have their sleep environment mimic a little cave. It should be dark, cool, and quiet. To ensure that it's dark enough, cover your baby's windows with blackout curtains," says Murray.
It's best to wait until your child is about 2 and a half years old to use a nightlight "as that is when they commonly develop a fear of the dark," says Murray. She says that 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 try to prevent noise and any sounds from 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," says Murray.
4. Keep a predictable sleep schedule and routine
Kids and babies thrive on a predictable, consistent routine when it comes to bedtime and sleep, according to Arielle Greenleaf, chief education officer at Restfully and Rest Academy and Motherfigure sleep coach. "In addition, remembering that babies and children need a lot of sleep to remain well-rested is important. Preventing your babies and children from becoming overtired (with that predictable schedule!) will help ensure that they will sleep well," says Greenleaf.
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 when you turn the lights off, they are to lay quietly in their bed until morning. 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," says Murray.
The information contained in this article is for educational and informational purposes only and is not intended as health or medical advice. Always consult a physician or other qualified health provider regarding any questions you may have about a medical condition or health objectives.