May 10, 2011

ZZZZZZZZZ...Time For Bed!

It's 7pm and bedtime is right around the corner.  Cue the doddling and distractions!  Children will avoid bedtime in any way that they can.

"I have to pee!"

"I'm thirsty!"

"I can't find my bear / blankie / doll!"

You'll find entire chapters of bedtime tips and advise in baby books.  Almost every issue of my favourite family magazine features a story about sleep.  Type 'child sleep issues' in any search engine and the results are endless.  I would like to share what works for my family.  Although we have two amazing little sleepers, we have hit bumps in the road that we have had to work through over the years.

1. Do your prep work.
I'm sure you're thinking, "prep work?  for bedtime?".  Anything that helps, I say!  Have their pj's ready, laid out on their bed.  Make sure your potty-trained child uses the bathroom before he gets into his pj's.  Apply toothpaste to their toothbrushes while they're getting dressed/using the bathroom.  Have a small cup of water ready.  You can even go as far as having your child pick out their nighttime book in the morning.  That way, you won't have to wait at bedtime, while he takes his time picking one out.

2. Routine, Routine, Routine!
Having a set, regular routine in any aspect of your family life tells your children that Mommy & Daddy are in control, and that they are expected to follow suit.  Make your bedtime prep work a routine.  Stick to it every single night.  Your children will quickly know what to expect from you, and what is expected of them.  The time that you put your child to bed should be the same every night as well.  There will always be exceptions to the rule, like a late night celebration with family or friends.  But once it's over, get back into that routine.

3. Set A Realistic Bed Time
My boys are in bed at 7:30pm every night.  We've been following this bedtime for the past 5 years.  I know that they both require at least 10 hours of sleep a night, and they're up at 7am each weekday morning.  Setting a goal for 7:30pm leaves room for nighttime hiccups (a bad case of the grumps, last-minute baths), as well as late activities (Big-A's reading, a late-running movie).  When determining the best bed time for your child, factor in their age, wake-up time and your evening schedule.  Look for signs of your child being sleep-deprived, and adjust their bed time accordingly.  Well-rested children will perform better in school than tired children, and will have more energy throughout the day.

4. Set A Cozy Atmosphere
It doesn't have to cost a fortune, but there are ways to make your child's room a comfortable one.  A light dimmer may help to ease those "monsters in the closet" fears.  Keeping blinds or curtains partially open, allowing the moonlight to light up the room, may also help to ease nighttime jitters.  I kept a baby monitor in Big-A's room until he was 5 years old.  That way I knew that if he ever woke up through the night and needed my husband or I, we would hear him and be in his room immediately.  I made sure that Big-A knew this as well, and it eased his mind.  Make sure that the room is not too warm or too cold.  Replace a warm duvet with a light quilt in the spring, switching back to the duvet in the fall.  Adults want to feel comfortable when going to bed, and children have the same needs.

5. Avoid Middle Of The Night Interruptions
It's 2am and you're in a deep sleep.  You wake up to a hand on your shoulder and your 5-year old yelling "I have to peeeeee!".  Middle of the night interruptions aren't good for anyone.  If these interruptions are developing a routine of their own, try to figure out what is triggering this behaviour.  If constant bathroom breaks are the issue, avoid liquids after dinnertime.  Waking your child up for a bathroom visit before you go to bed and using pull-ups may also help to break this habit.  For what felt like an eternity (at least one year), we had Big-A coming into our room every night asking for a drink of water.  We started leaving a water bottle next to his bed.  He would drink the entire bottle, and then wake us up after having an accident.  We then decreased the amount of water to about 1/4-inch in a small cup.  We made it clear that this was the only water that he would have to drink through the night.  This solved the problem quickly.  You won't find a solution to sleep interruptions right away, it will take some work.  But be persistent and get to the bottom of the issue.  Your entire family will benefit from a full night's sleep.

6. Work As A Team
This has nothing to do with your children.  It's all about the adults in the house.  Parents should be working together, supporting each other.  Take turns with the evening routine.  Discuss changes together.  This may not work (or be possible) in single-parent families or a family with a late-working parent.  But if you have the support of a second adult in the house, make sure that you're both involved in nighttime routines.

A well-rested child is a happy child!

Sweet dreams!

Big-A, age 4 1/2, sleeping with his sports toque!

Lil-J at 5 months, sleeping his little heart away!


Lena! said...

Sigh, my boys need help in this department. Ryder used to have a static bedtime of 8:30pm, but since Reid came along (who sleeps closer to 9pm) it's been a way to get them both down before 9:30pm. I told my husband we should aim for 5 minutes earlier every day until they're back to their usual bedtime, but Ryder always puts up a fight.

Lena! said...

And oh your pictures are just beyond adorable!

Shauna MacKenzie said...

Thx Lena - I love bedtime pics!

My boys are great sleepers, always happy to go to go to bed each night. But it hasn't always been easy. We've really had to work at it. For us, the thing that has worked best is keeping the same routine year after year. I know that I have to start the bedtime process by 7pm in order to have them into bed by 7:30 each night. It's not always possible, but if it happens most of the time I'm happy! You guys will find your groove, just keep at it and go with what works for your family.