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There are lots of things that can disrupt a child’s sleep. A new schedule, and exciting event, learning a new skill… And of course, just when you find a routine that works, something happens and your child decides they’re afraid of the dark, or that sleep is for wimps.
Create a Routine
We’ve had several different sleep routines in our house. Each of them worked for a time, then we had to switch it up. Originally Miss O had a bath as part of her bedtime routine, but it gave her dry skin and no amount of lotion could fix it. Also, as she grew older, our evenings became more complex and a nightly bath was no longer possible.
At some point we switched to showers – if you haven’t hit that milestone yet, it’s a beautiful thing – but again, not every night.
When she hit 4-years-old the stalling began. Good grief, this girl can come up with a lot of ways to delay bedtime! Then I adjusted our routine so that she got brushed teeth and got jammies on 30 minutes before bedtime, then she can have play time or watch a show on tv. It was life changing.
This school year – kindergarten! – has brought lots of new changes, and with them, lots of new sleep problems. As parents, the only thing we can do is roll with it and adjust as needed. To end the struggle of lights out, I bought a timer and set it for 20 minutes when I come in to say goodnight. I usually spend about 5 minutes with her, then leave the room with the small lamp still on – it will turn off when the time runs out. That way I’m not the one turning the lights out.
Set the Mood
No matter how tired you are, it’s hard to go to sleep if you don’t have the proper environment. A bedroom needs to be comfortable and calming, to suggest sleep. If possible, keep toys elsewhere. If not, put them away before bed (a good habit anyway). Turn down the lights and leave gadgets outside.
After jammies are on, I try to limit noise and excitement. Just like I need some time to wind down, so does Miss O.
Tools You Can Use
There are a few things you can have available to make bedtimes easier.
A good mattress. I ordered Miss O’s first mattress for her big girl bed online. It was fine, but it wore out quickly. For her current mattress I brought her to the store to choose which one she felt most comfortable on, and I’m glad I did. She chose one much firmer than I would have picked for her.
Soft lamp. Any lamp 40 watts or less is going to provide enough light to read a story, but not so much that it will keep her awake if she wants to fall asleep to Goodnight Moon.
Light timer. I purchased this timer through Amazon and it has made a world of difference. After story time she gets 20 minutes of Miss O time. The first 5 minutes I usually sit with her and play, talk, or read, then I go and she can play, read, or go to sleep.
Door lock. Yes, we have a lock on her door. There are nights (many, many nights) when Miss O gets up multiple times for silly reasons. “I forgot to tell you I gave my friend a grape at lunch today.” If she can’t stay in her room on her own, we lock the door. It gets unlocked again after she’s asleep, usually when I check on her before I go to bed.
Essential oils. I was a bit late to the essential oil bandwagon, but I love my Oilogic Roll-Ons. The Relax & Calm helps settle Miss O when she’s having trouble settling down and the Slumber & Sleep soothes her senses so she can get some shut-eye. And now that school has started, I’m really diggin’ the Stuffy Nose & Cough Roll-On for the back-to-school sniffles.
Melatonin. When sleep schedules go awry I sometimes give Miss O a little help getting back on track with Zarbee’s Sleep. A few days of her “purple” are usually enough to get her back into her healthy sleep habits.