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8 Sleep Tips for Every Child (and Every Parent)

How to get your child to sleep through the night. Sleep tips, ideas, and suggestions for every kid from Elizabeth Pantley author of The No Cry Sleep Solution. Parenting at bedtime and at night.

We do everything we can to preserve sleep for as many of us as possible, especially at nighttime, but we’ve had a few frustrations lately:

  • Most nights, Grace wakes up during the night and comes over to our room. I don’t mind her coming over when she’s afraid or needs reassurance. What bugs me is that she plans on waking up so she can come over to my room.
  • Allie naps for all of 40 minutes many days, often even less.
Elizabeth Pantley, author of The No-Cry Sleep Solution, offered the following tips to help me figure out what’s going on.

Lack of sleep affects every minute of every day for every person in the family because lack of sleep isn’t just about being tired. Sleep has a role in everything your child does and how he feels — dawdling, temper tantrums, hyperactivity, growth, health, and even learning to tie his shoes and recite the ABC’s. Sleep affects everything.

The following ideas are of value to almost any sleeper, of any age. These tips can bring improvement not only in your child’s sleep, but also in her daytime mood and last, but not least – improvements in your own sleep and outlook as well.

1. Maintain a consistent bedtime and awaking time.

Your child’s biological clock has a strong influence on her wakefulness and sleepiness. When you establish a set time for bedtime and wake up time you “set” your child’s clock so that it functions smoothly.

Aim for an early bedtime and stick to it seven days a week for the most consistently positive results.

2. Encourage regular daily naps.

Daily naps are important. An energetic child can find it difficult to go through the day without a rest break. A nap-less child will often wake up cheerful and become progressively fussier or hyper-alert as the day goes on.

The length and quality of naps affects night sleep – good naps equal better night sleep.

3. Set your child’s biological clock.

Take advantage of your child’s biology so that he’s actually tired when bedtime arrives. Darkness causes an increase in the release of the body’s sleep hormone — the biological “stop” button.

You can align your child’s sleepiness with bedtime by dimming the lights during the hour before bedtime. Exposing your child to morning light is pushing the “go” button in her brain, one that says, “Time to wake up and be active.”

So keep your mornings bright!

4. Develop a consistent bedtime routine.

Routines create security. A consistent, peaceful bedtime routine allows your child to transition from the motion of the day to the tranquil state of sleep.

An organized routine helps you coordinate the specifics: bath, pajamas, tooth-brushing. It helps you to function on auto-pilot at the time time when you are most tired and least creative. And a bedtime routine can be a lovely way to end each day by bonding with your child.

5. Create a cozy sleep environment.

Where your child sleeps can be a key to quality sleep. Make certain the mattress is comfortable, the blankets are warm, the room temperature is right, pajamas are comfy, and the bedroom is welcoming. Add comforting pictures on the walls and stuffed animals nearby.

Lots of kids enjoy having a small bedtime pet nearby for company,  like a fish or turtle.

6. Provide the right nutrition.

Foods can affect energy level and sleepiness. Carbohydrates can have a calming effect on the body, while foods high in protein or sugar generate alertness, particularly when eaten alone.

A few ideas for pre-bed snacks are:

  • whole wheat toast and cheese
  • bagel and peanut butter
  • oatmeal with bananas
  • yogurt
  • low-sugar granola.

Vitamin deficiencies due to unhealthy food choices can also affect a child’s sleep. Provide your child with a daily assortment of healthy foods in three meals plus several snacks for health and good sleep.

7. Help your child to be healthy and fit.

Many children don’t get enough daily physical activity. Too much TV watching and a lack of activity prevents good sleep.

Children who get ample daily exercise fall asleep more quickly, sleep better, stay asleep longer, and wake up feeling refreshed.

Avoid activity in the hour before bedtime though, since exercise can be stimulating; they’ll be jumping on the bed instead of sleeping in it!

8. Teach your child how to relax.

Many children get in bed but aren’t sure what to do when they get there! It can help to follow a soothing pre-bed routine that creates sleepiness.

One good idea is story time. A child who is listening to a parent read a book or tell a tale will tend to lie still and listen. This quiet stillness allows him to become sleepy. Older children might enjoy listening to an audio book as they drift off to sleep.


Work with these eight ideas and you’ll see improvements in your child’s sleep, and in your sleep, too.


Excerpted from The No-Cry Sleep Solution for Toddlers and Preschoolers: Gentle Ways to Stop Bedtime Battles and Improve Your Child’s Sleep (McGraw-Hill) by Elizabeth Pantley

© 2012 – 2018, Tara Ziegmont. All rights reserved.

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