Children need sleep to live happy, healthy lives. Children who sleep poorly are moodier, struggle to concentrate on tasks, and are more likely to have behavioural problems later in life. It’s up to you as the parent to teach your child ways to get a better nights’ sleep.
Practically everyone wakes up during the night. Most adults simply roll over and fall asleep again, and won’t even recall waking up. But when children wake up they may become frightened or disorientated. When your child cries out during the night, your instinct is to go and comfort them. However, if you do this too much, you child will not ever be able to sleep without your comfort. You need to teach them to get better sleep by themselves.
The first key to helping your child get better sleep by sleeping on their own is to make sure their room and bed is comfortable. Make sure their room is cool, dry and dark, and their mattress is in good condition. Many children get better sleep if they have a stuffed animal or nightlight to help them feel more secure.
To help your child get better sleep, place them in bed, read them a story, then say goodnight and turn out the lights. When you put your child to bed and leave them, they will probably start to cry or call out. This can be quite harrowing, as you want nothing more than to go and comfort them. You have to be strong if you want your child to learn to get better sleep.
If they cry for a few minutes without stopping, go back to see them. Don’t give in to requests for more milk, another story or a hug. Don’t turn on the lights or take them out of bed. Don’t stay in the room longer than a minute or two. If they call out again, wait even longer before returning to see them.
You may need to return a few times a night, but keep increasing the time between your visits. Ask babysitters and relatives to follow the routine too, and within a week you should notice your child getting better sleep.
As a parent, you will probably find this routine difficult at first. It’s hard not to run when we hear our child crying. Teaching your child to get better sleep by themselves is an important part of their development. If sleeping problems continue, you could also ask your paediatrician for advice on helping your child get better sleep.