Solace Blog

Sleep Training

Helping your Child Sleep through the Night

February 1, 2019

When we think of the phrase “sleep training,” most of us probably think of babies.  Most parents know that babies need help and encouragement to sleep through the night.  What most parents don’t realize, however, is that school aged children often times need sleep training too!  In fact, it is estimated that 40% of young children are sleep deprived. Additionally, kids with ADHD, autism and sensory processing disorder (amongst many other diseases and developmental disorders) are notorious for having sleep-related issues.

The Dangers of Lack of Sleep

Lack of sleep can affect a child’s growth, development, learning and behavior.  Moreover, it can wreak havoc on a family; if a child is not sleeping, chances are mom and/or dad aren’t sleeping, either.  Then, when the parents are tired and sleep-deprived, their tempers are short and siblings are affected as well. It’s a vicious, exhausting, cycle!

Tips for Getting More Sleep

While there does not seem to be any magic trick to getting kids to go to sleep – and stay asleep! – there are a few things you can do at home to start training your child to catch some more shuteye (here are tips for baby sleep).

  • For starters, create a “sleep hygiene” routine and stick with it!  Experts recommend a warm shower or bath, followed by some quiet reading time, a cool, dark room and a bed layered with comfortable and soft sheets.  By creating a routine and following it, our bodies naturally learn to expect sleep is not far off.
  • If your child is refusing to go to bed at night, set realistic and firm expectations of what bedtime looks like.  Perhaps consider creating a “visual schedule” that shows pictures of what your ideal routine looks like (brush teeth, use the bathroom, read, lights out).  Let your child know exactly what time bedtime is (“lights out at 8pm!”), and set the expectation that your child is not to get out of their bed again once the lights are out.
  • Sometimes kids fall asleep, but have an issue staying asleep throughout the entire night.  Usually, this results in mom or dad lying in bed with the child until they fall back asleep, or perhaps the child hops into bed with his/her parents to finish out the remainder of the night.  If this sounds like your issue, try using positive reinforcement to encourage children to stay the night in their own space. For example, create a sticker chart and give your child a special sticker of their choice for each successful night (here are some great sleep apps for kids).

In addition to the above suggestions, consider cutting down on screen time right before bed; research shows that kids who played one hour of video games an hour before bedtime showed significant sleep disruption compared to those who didn’t play.

Lastly, make bedtime special.  When children feel loved and safe, they tend to relax.  Your love and support coupled with a consistent bedtime routine and good sleep hygiene should have your little one drifting off to dreamland in no time!

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