Here are a few more thoughts about small children and sleep:
If you have a child who never has slept well, and medical causes such as silent reflux and unaddressed food allergies have been ruled out, please do try to be calm. This child has a hard time going to sleep, an inability to sleep as it is. I know it is hard, I know it is challenging. But if this were you, you would want to be treated with kindness, and with respect.
After that, we do need to recognize that there are certain things that go with certain ages regarding sleep. For example:
- Ages two to five are times typical of nightmares (and even sleep terrors or sleepwalking!)
- At age two, there are many requests for water, for this, for that. Try to anticipate what your child will need and want. They may want a glass of water at night. Try to keep the bedtime routine short and simple.
- At age two- and- a-half, this is an age of ritual and tradition. They would like the same routine each night. Try to keep the routine as simple as possible and be patient because this ritualistic approach to bedtime really is just a phase.
- To me, age four is about the time children sleep through the night really well, (many sources say sleep is much improved between ages three to four) unless they are still not dry at night and the wetness wakes them up.
Things to keep in mind for all ages:
- Darkness and nighttime separation can be very scary to small children; please keep their needs in mind!
- Getting a child to “go to sleep” can be harder around the ages of 6 and 9 for developmental reasons.
- Please realize changes in development, illness, stress, anxiety, travel, change in life events can really throw off sleeping
- Magnesium, found in leafy green vegetables, is important for sleep.
- Please avoid rough- housing before sleep
- Does your child get up at the same time every day? Does your child go to bed around the same time every day? Most sleep sources seem to cite this rhythm as being important for setting the biological clock.
- How much media does your child watch? Many parents have told me their child slept much better after they cut screens out of their small children’s lives.
- How much outside time is this child getting?
- Do you also dim the lights and put your house to sleep as well at bedtime? This can be very effective with small children
- Do you have a short, simple routine leading up to sleep? Do you have that special (calm, gentle, quiet) voice for telling stories before bed or reading a story before bed? And please consider a one-book or chapter rule and if that would improve things for your child or not. It might! I think this goes along with simplifying the bedtime routine!