I spent two decades as a Active Duty Army Social Work Officer (I’m an LCSW). At least 60 percent of my clinical practice involved sleep issues and disorders.
I am also the mother of two sets of twins ( 3 and almost 6) one of whom was not a good sleeper.
I am frequently asked how I get my 4 children to sleep at the same time every night. (3 out of 4 stay asleep through the night). The following tips are helpful for weaned toddlers through elementary aged children.
- Bedtime should be the same time every night.
- No screen time ( TV, computer, game etc…) within an hour of bedtime.
- No television, radio or electronics in or within hearing distance of the sleep area if at all possible.
- Invest in black out curtains.
- A warm bath with lavender scented soap helps relax children before bed
- Establish a bedtime routine that involves a glass of milk with a tablespoon of honey for children older than a year. It doesn’t have to be cow’s milk (it could be soy, nut or goat’s milk as an example) but honey is a natural sedative.
- Do the same things at the sleep time, e.g book, sing songs, etc…Do these every night in the same order. With younger children who have concrete thinking, create a plan and don’t deviate from it. My daughters get one book and one song each at bedtime, every night.
- Have a consequence ready in your head if the child gets out of bed for no reason. (This does not include going to the bathroom, unless you feel that the repeated trips to the bathroom are a manipulation). I keep a potty in my daughters’ room for convenience sake. If my children are out of bed to play, etc.. they stand on the wall for minutes approximating their age. So if the three year old gets out of bed to play, she stands on the wall for 3 minutes. You can use any consequence that works for your child.
- If your pediatrician recommends it, the lowest dose of melatonin ( 1 mg) can be given 30 minutes before sleep. My children love the melatonin gummies. You can find them at most pharmacies.
In a future post, we will tackle bedtime defiance, sleep disruptions, and keeping your cool at bedtime.