Guest written by Renee Wasserman, PT, MPH, founder of SleepyHead Solutions
It’s that time of year again — time to make resolutions for the new year. Do any of these sound familiar? I will go to the gym more often! I will read more books! I will spend more time outside! I will save more money! How can you increase the likelihood that you will succeed at any of these resolutions? Get a good night’s sleep!
As we head into the new year, I challenge you to make sleep resolutions not only for your children but for yourself, as well. Here are a few to consider:
- Eliminate bad sleep habits from the day!
While a consistent bedtime routine is very important for our little ones and for ourselves, television and screen time should not be part of that routine. The purpose of bedtime rituals is to cue adults and children to begin to wind down and that it is time for sleep. Screen time actually does the opposite, which is why it is recommended that all screen time be stopped at least 90 minutes before bedtime, regardless of your age. A calming bedtime routine might include reading, soft music, or a quiet game. So say hello to “Good Night Moon” and bye-bye to the iPhone!
- Recognize those sleep cues.
When adults get tired, we take some time for ourselves, enjoy a snooze or even get a little crabby! However, when babies and toddlers get tired, they are too young to understand what they are feeling and certainly can’t verbalize those feelings. They have their own ways of letting us know! Remember that each child’s sleepy signs are unique. It takes practice and patience to be able to recognize your little one’s signs, but once you do, you will be able to get her to sleep much more easily. Some common sleep signs are:
- Tugging at ears
- Quiet and calmer
- Arching of back
- Staring off / disinterested
- Beginning to get fussy
- Sucking becomes slower
- Rubbing of nose
- Strive for the perfect sleep environment.
An ideal sleep environment is critical for children and adults to get the most restorative and best-quality sleep. A cool, dark room with a sound machine on the white noise setting will help everyone sleep better. In addition, keep your child’s sleeping space “boring” with no toys or other distractions. These will make it easier for them to put themselves back to sleep should they wake in the middle of the night or during a nap.
- Know how much they need.
Every child is different, but research shows that most of our children are not getting the amount of sleep they require. How do you know if your child is getting enough sleep? A well-rested child is able to wake in the morning on his own in good spirits, is alert and happy throughout the day, and does not fall asleep in the car. It may appear that your child requires less sleep than what is recommended, but the opposite is most likely true.
- Make sleep a priority for the entire family!
For many of us with long work hours and multiple after-school activities, sleep quickly becomes low on the list of priorities and easy to push later and later into the night. Even though you may be able to get more things done by going to bed later, chronic sleep deprivation can have serious consequences for both children and adults. Remind yourselves (and your older children) that a full night’s sleep is as healthy for your body as eating your vegetables.
Getting a good night’s sleep for your family does not have to be overwhelming or daunting. Challenge yourselves to make sleep a priority this year by getting to bed on time and getting a full night’s sleep every single night!
Have you made any sleep resolutions for the New Year? I’d love to hear them!
Renee Wasserman, PT, MPH, founder of SleepyHead Solutions, is a Family Sleep Institute-certified Infant and Child Sleep Consultant. She offers many services including phone, email, Skype/FaceTime, and in-person consultations to solve your child’s sleep challenges. Feel free to email her with any questions. You can find out more information at her website and on her Facebook page.