good sleep habits

Helping Your Child Develop Good Sleep Habits

Is your little one having trouble settling down for bedtime? Do they often resist or have emotional outbursts when it’s time to sleep? As frustrating as it can be, know that you’re not alone. Many parents struggle with establishing healthy sleep habits, especially during nursery. The good news is you can try many effective techniques to help your child learn to sleep soundly. 

This blog post will explore why good sleep is vital for your child’s development. We’ll also provide tips on creating bedtime routines, setting age-appropriate sleep schedules, sleeping problem solutions, and more. Your child can build habits that enable peaceful slumber and bright, cheerful days with patience and consistency.

Why is Sleep so Important for Little Ones?

Sleep allows growing minds and bodies to restore, refuel and develop properly. During sleep, essential functions occur, including:

  • Tissue growth and repair 
  • Energy restoration 
  • Memory consolidation and learning enhancement
  • Release of hormones that enable growth and development
  • Strengthening of the immune system

Children need more sleep than adults to support rapid development. Poor or inadequate sleep can negatively impact:  

  • Mood and behaviour – crankiness, tantrums, hyperactivity
  • Attention, learning and memory 
  • Physical health and growth
  • Overall development and wellbeing

By helping your child build healthy sleep habits early on, you enable restorative rest that allows them to grow, play and learn to the best of their abilities.

Setting the Stage for Healthy Sleep 

You can start encouraging good sleep habits right from the start:

Maintain a Calm, Consistent Bedtime Routine

Establishing and maintaining a calm, consistent bedtime routine is essential for children’s healthy sleep patterns. Aim to follow the same sequence of activities in the hour before bedtime, such as:

  • Bath Time: A warm bath helps relax your child and signals the start of the bedtime routine.
  • Brushing Teeth: It’s a healthy habit and a clear signal that bedtime is approaching.
  • Story Time: Reading a soothing story calms your child’s mind and encourages winding down.
  • Lullabies: Singing or playing soft, calming music enhances the bedtime atmosphere.
  • Goodnight Kisses and Hugs: Ending with affection reinforces a sense of security.

Keeping bedtime calm and predictable makes drifting off easier. Rituals also provide bonding time and feelings of security.

Make the Sleep Space Cozy and Comfortable

Where your child sleeps impacts how well they sleep. Ensure their room is: 

  • Dark – invest in blackout curtains or blinds
  • Quiet – try a white noise machine to block disruptive sounds
  • Cool – ideal temperature is around 65-70°F (18-21°C)  
  • Comfortable – choose a supportive, breathable crib mattress

Small changes like these eliminate things that might keep your child from sleeping well.

Establish Bedtime Routines for Preschoolers

How you help your child relax before bed also matters. Try activities like:

  • Mindfulness or Deep Breathing: Teach your child simple mindfulness or deep breathing exercises. This can help them learn to manage their emotions and relax before sleep.
  • Comfortable Pajamas: Ensure your child’s pyjamas are comfortable and suitable for the season. Feeling physically cosy is a big part of feeling relaxed.
  • Limit Screen Time: Reduce or eliminate screen time at least an hour before bedtime, as the blue light from screens can interfere with sleep.
  • Avoid Sugary Snacks and Beverages: Avoid sugary snacks and drinks close to bedtime, as they can cause restlessness.

These habits prepare both the mind and body for sleep. Having a set routine each night strengthens the association between these relaxing rituals and sleep time for kids.

How Much Sleep Does Your Child Need?

Sleep needs vary by age. According to paediatric guidelines, here are the recommended sleep ranges:

  • Newborns (0-3 months): 14-17 hours per day (including naps) 
  • Infants (4-12 months): 12-16 hours per day (including naps)
  • Toddlers (1-2 years): 11-14 hours per day (including naps)
  • Preschoolers (3-5 years): 10-13 hours per day (including naps)

Of course, each child is different, so determine your child’s best time to sleep. If yours seems constantly tired, cranky or hyperactive, they may need more sleep than peers. Make adjustments and aim for the high end of recommended durations if required.

Nap Schedules

Naps are also essential. Here are typical nap recommendations:

  • Newborns: Typically 3-4 naps per day, each 1-3 hours 
  • 6-12 Months: 2-3 naps per day ranging from 30 min to 2 hours
  • 1-2 Years: 1-2 naps per day ranging from 1-3 hours  
  • Preschool Age: Typically dropping to 1 nap per day lasting 1-2 hours

Adjust sleep schedules gradually as your child grows. Sudden nap changes can disrupt nighttime sleep. Watch for cues like eye rubbing or fussiness to time naps appropriately.

Handling Common Sleep Setbacks Gently

Even with great habits, most children have periods of sleep disturbances. Try not to become frustrated. Reassure your little one and address issues calmly.

Bedtime Stalling

Does your child constantly ask for water, extra stories or one more hug at bedtime? Gentle redirection is critical. Acknowledge their request, but firmly steer them back to the bedtime routine. Be patient and consistent, and avoid engaging in late-night play or long conversations. They will eventually learn it’s time to settle down. Having a visual routine chart can also help. 

Night Waking and Early Risers

Waking at night is developmentally appropriate for little ones. When it happens:  

  • Keep lighting low and your voices soft. Avoid sudden stimulation.
  • Attend basic needs like thirst or diaper changes briefly. Offer comfort objects like a favourite toy or blanket. 
  • Avoid playing, turning on lights, or lengthy interactions that reinforce waking.
  • Use simple, consistent phrases like “It’s nighttime, time to sleep”. Avoid engaging further. 

With maturity, night wakings typically resolve. Having a consistent soothing routine builds trust and skills to self-settle.

Night Terrors 

Sometime between ages 3-7, a child may experience night terrors – intense crying, fear and confusion while still asleep. Night terrors are scary for parents, too, but try to remember:

  • They are common and not harmful (though loud cries can be upsetting).
  • Your child will have no memory of them in the morning.
  • Gently comfort them with soothing words or rubbing their back, but avoid fully waking them.

Staying calm through an episode can help a child return to deep sleep more quickly. If night terrors are frequent or prolonged, check with your paediatrician.

Bedtime Fears

Many young children develop fears about sleeping alone or in the dark. Tea-light night lights, leaving doors slightly open, tracking their worries on a “worry doll,” or including “monsters spray” in your routine are gentle ways to ease anxiety. Avoid punishments, as patience and compassion are essential. 

Bedtime avoidance can also signal anxiety. Maintain routines while providing extra reassurance. With consistency, most children eventually learn to outgrow transient fears. If concerns persist, seek professional support. Sleep is vital for your child’s well-being and yours, too.

Set Your Child Up for Sleep Success with Tappy Toes

The nursery years fly by quickly. Starting healthy sleep habits now makes the childhood journey smoother for you both. Provide plenty of daytime activity and relaxing bedtime routines in cosy, sleep-friendly spaces. Be patient during typical setbacks, and you’ll easily guide your child to sleep. 

At Tappy Toes, we are dedicated to helping your child develop great sleep habits. Our experienced staff can provide tailored advice and support for a peaceful night’s rest.  We recognise that every child is unique, and our team is committed to helping you find the best strategies for your family.

With Tappy Toes by your side, you can set your little one up for sleep success. The restful nights will benefit your child’s health and well-being and allow them to flourish and grow during the precious nursery years and well beyond. By laying a strong foundation for healthy sleep habits now, you are providing your child with the tools they need for a lifetime of restful and rejuvenating sleep.

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