I’m a nationally published sleep expert, journalist, and the mom of three young kids. I’ve been helping tired families sleep since 2007 (more about me here). Subscribe to The Well Rested Family for fresh news and tips on keeping your bunch happy and healthy. Thanks for stopping by!

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Entries in getting baby to bed (2)

Monday
Jun182012

Great Expectations: Thinking Your Way to Bedtime Success

In my blog posts and sleep articles, I often write about things parents can do to help kids sleep, from serving smarter snacks to picking the right bedtime to reading certain books.

But sometimes, you can do all the right things and still fail. That's because whether your bedtime routine succeeds or fails is only partially based on what you doyour real power lies in your mindset. 

Yep—bedtime success starts with the way you think. When carrying out your child’s bedtime routine, your attitude and demeanor are more important than you might realize. If you’re positive your child will never go to sleep easily, you can bet he won’t. If you’re certain that trying to make a change is pointless, it will be. If you’re not 100 percent, in-your-gut committed to breaking an overtired cycle and getting your child to bed earlier, she’ll sense that she’s only a tantrum away from breaking you. Well hello there, mega-tantrum.

 The thing is, unless your child sleeps in a hall of mirrors, you can’t watch yourself and observe the signals you’re sending during bedtime, but your child can—and does. So if you’ve established an appropriate bedtime and created a solid bedtime routine and your child still has trouble drifting off to dreamland, ask yourself these questions:

  • Are you behaving as if you expect your child to go to sleep?
  • Have you created a loving, enjoyable bedtime experience for your child, one that isn’t rushed or half-hearted?
  • Are you sidestepping your child’s stall tactics and power plays by simply carrying on the routine in a friendly, supportive manner?
  • Is everyone in your household supportive of your child’s bedtime and her need for sleep, or are older children or your spouse disappointed that your child has to go to bed? (When this is the case, babies and young children quickly pick up on the idea that bedtime means missing out on late night “fun,” and resist going to sleep.)
  • Are you 100 percent sure that your routine is as consistent as possible, with the same elements in the same order each night?

More than one or two "no" answers? Your child's bedtime is going to be a struggle, without a doubt. And it certainly isn't your child's fault.

Children take their cues from you. So if bedtime is a challenge, steal a play from martial arts masters by “thinking through the obstacle.” (Martial artists use this technique to split boards and concrete by shifting their focus from the obstacle itself to the point just beyond the obstacle. That point becomes their target. Splitting the board is just a tiny thing they have to do first.)

“Think through” this obstacle by acting as though a successful bedtime is a foregone conclusion, and it will be. If your actions and demeanor demonstrate that you are wholly committed to bedtime and supportive of healthy sleep, your bedtime efforts will be successful. Hi-yah!

Monday
May072012

Eight Tips for a Better Bedtime

It's bedtime again...and the bed's empty.Is bedtime a battle? Here are eight easy tips that have helped many of my reader's and client's kids sleep easier. Put them to work at your house, and see if bedtime doesn't get a whole lot better.

Play with Timing

For babies and toddlers, a better bedtime is often a matter of timing. Overtiredness may be causing your child’s bedtime shenanigans; try moving bedtime earlier by 15-20 minutes.

Later, gator

Alternately, your child may need to be awake longer before hitting the sack. If your child seems amenable to sleep (i.e. she isn’t crazy-hyper, but she just.can’t.sleep, and keeps calling you back into her room endlessly) try moving bedtime 30 minutes later.

Toy story

Toddlers love the delay bedtime in any way possible, and a bedroom filled with toys and books provides the perfect opportunity. If your child is throwing fits at bedtime for just one more story or just one more plaything, it’s time to move these distracting items someplace else. Keep 2-3 books and a few cherished comfort items in the bedroom, and move the rest.

Step it up

Exercise makes falling asleep easier and promotes deep sleep, says Dr. Richard Seligman of Presbyterian Sleep Disorders Center. To help your child fall asleep faster, add more activity to his day—running, jumping, park time, or just plain old walking. Every step he takes is one step closer to a better bedtime.

Unplug

A bedroom full of gadgets can make bedtimes tough. Electronic toys get the brain jazzed up just when it should be winding down for sleep. That includes handheld video games, talking stuffed animals, even that electronic sleep sheep. For a better bedtime, ditch them all.

Carbaholic

Complex carbohydrates (like those found in whole grains) help summon the sandman by aiding the brain’s production of serotonin and melatonin. To get kids yawning at bedtime, serve a snack like whole-grain cereal and milk or soymilk, whole-wheat toast and nut butter, whole-grain crackers and cheese, or popcorn.

Toasty tub

After a very warm bath, bedtime beckons. That’s because a warm bath raises the body’s core temperature, which drops quickly after the bath ends. This up-then-down temperature pattern helps cue sleepiness. So say goodbye to lukewarm baths (brrrrrrrrrrrr!) and don’t be afraid to bathe your child in comfortably warm water.

Turn it down

Another place to play with temperature is in your child’s bedroom—it should be cool, between 60 and 68 degrees. Warm temperatures are linked to poor, disrupted sleep, and cooling the brain has been shown to be an effective treatment for insomnia. So turning that thermostat down could help your child drift off to sleep quicker.