Adult’s sleep is complicated and is influenced by many factors. It depends on health, environment, mood and other issues. Children are the same. But they are not able to eliminate the factors that worsen the quality of their sleep by themselves. Only adults can help. So how to improve your child’s sleep? Sometimes you need very little! In this article you will find useful and practical tips from specialists to help you improve the quality of your child’s sleep.
Pay attention to your child’s health. Although the majority of children’s sleep disorders are behavioral, getting to the bottom of sleep problems should always start with the elimination of any health issues. And these often affect the amount and quality of a child’s sleep.
Begin by excluding colds and inflammations. It is common and usually quite easy to eliminate complaints that negatively affect rest. Runny nose, cough, fever or pain are not allies of a child’s healthy sleep. A temporary illness that can cause sleep disruptions, and in that case you can consult your family doctor to use an appropriate treatment and wait of course. Sometimes, instead of wondering how to improve a child’s sleep, it is enough to be patient.
The quantity and quality of a child’s sleep may also be affected by allergies, both inhaled and food. One of the most common food allergies among children is allergy to cow’s milk proteins . The symptoms include irritability, unwillingness to eat, diarrhea or soft stool. In addition to gastrointestinal symptoms, you can also observe skin changes, i.e. erythema and itching .
Allergy to cow’s milk proteins is often painful, so it affects your baby’s sleep. Those symptoms make the toddler wake up much more often. In addition, the total sleep time per day is reduced – studies have shown a decrease of up to 5.5 hours a day . If you suspect your baby’s allergy to cow’s milk protein, consult your family doctor or a pediatrician. It can be helpful to change the feeding time just after waking up – instead of falling asleep, bouncing (lightly) and not putting the baby flat immediately after eating.
Obstructive sleep apnea also has a negative effect on the toddler’s sleep. This is the most common respiratory disorder among children. Most often it concerns babies between 3 and 6 years old. Your attention should be drawn to restless sleep (spinning), snoring, head bending backwards or night sweats . In addition, the child may wake up more often at night and be more sleepy during the day due to poor quality night rest. How to improve a child’s sleep with such symptoms? If you have any doubts and suspect your child’s sleep apnea, be sure to consult a doctor for further diagnostics.
Gastroesophageal reflux disease is another difficulty that disrupts a child’s sleep. It is to point out that reflux is a natural, physiological reaction. Reflux disease is another thing. Downpouring and vomiting reaches its peak around the age of 4 months, and should end around the 12 month of age. Reflux can also be a reason that the baby wakes up at night and has shorter naps. That is why it is so important that the baby does not overeat – especially before bedtime – and has the right conditions for rest. If a child vomits without obvious discomfort and is gaining weight correctly, there is no reason to worry . However, if you are worried about anything, you should seek the advice of a family doctor or a pediatrician.
If your child does not have any chronic disease but has inflammation or a cold, look out for side effects on the medicine or supplements leaflet. Some of them can have a negative impact on the baby’s sleep.
Creating a safe and optimal sleep environment can have a positive influence on your child’s quality of sleep. Even small changes in the nursery can significantly help your babies sleep longer stretches at night and sleep longer in the morning.
Let’s start with the nursery first and then move to the cot. The best temperature of the nursery is between 18-20 degrees. The cool temperature of the bedroom helps little noses breathe freely. The second thing we need to pay attention to is the darkness level in the bedroom. Light often disturbs sleep, especially in the summer where it gets bright very early in the morning and stays bright until late hours in the evening. I don’t know about you, but whenever I want to take a nap during the day or want to sleep in a little bit in the morning I have to make sure that all my blackout curtains are drawn. Otherwise, I am up with the first light. Babies are as sensitive to light as we are. That’s why it is important to make the nursery as dark as possible 🙂
Let’s focus on the cot now . First of all, make sure that the mattress is firm and flat. Use a tight sheet (ones with a rubber band are the best). There shouldn’t be any wrinkles. The surface should be smooth. Keep your Little One’s bed free of toys, bumpers and pillows. Avoid using loose blankets. There are many great swaddles and sleeping bags out there to keep your baby warm and safe. And last but not least, to prevent SIDS , remember to place your baby on the back to sleep.
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Naps can improve nighttime sleep. Their quantity and quality are important and affect the child’s night rest. For the first four months of a child’s life, his or her circadian rhythm is being shaped. This means that until then, the baby is unable to distinguish the difference between day and night. So remember that your infant should have regular naps tailored to his needs. You must remember, however, that introducing a rigid schedule of the day is impossible and even harmful in the first months of a child’s life.
Naps should take place at relatively constant times and preferably in properly prepared conditions. The number of naps, their duration, as well as the period of activity between them differs according to the age of the child. And so, babies up to 4 months old have between 4 to 6 naps during the day, 5 and 6 month old from 3 to 4 naps, from 6 to 8 months – from 2 to 3, from 9 months – 2. The transition to one nap usually falls between 15 and 18 months of age. Children drop the last nap of the day around their third birthday.
As you wonder how to improve your child’s sleep, observe his or her behavior and signs of tiredness. However, if you can’t spot them or you are not sure if it’s the right time for a nap, pay attention to the time of activity between them. Up to the third month of life it is about an hour, up to 6 months about two, up to 10 months about three, and up to 18 months the nap interval should be about four hours, and when the child is between 2 and 3 years old – five hours.
I have noticed that parents focus mostly on a bedtime routine and often forget about the importance of morning rituals. Mornings are as equally important as evenings. They signal that it is time to wake up and the looooong night sleep is over, it’s time to play 🙂
Create your own morning ritual. Keep in mind that we want to signal your baby that the day has begun and it is time to wake up. Therefore morning rituals should be more lively than a slow and calming bedtime routine. You want to start your day with a bang! Greet your baby with a smile and cheerful voice: “Gooooood morning sunshine! :)” You can open the curtains to let the sunshine in and make the room bright. If you play music during bedtime routine and your child responds well to it, you can also have a morning playlist on. Everything to help your child to understand that the nighttime is over.
We already covered the morning ritual. Let’s move to calm preparation for a nice, long night sleep, a bedtime routine. I am often asked how long the bedtime ritual should be. My answer is as long as you wish. If your child is content and loves having a long bath and relaxing massage, the routine can last even 45-60 minutes. But If you Little One’s is tired or is not a big fan of “Mommy Spa” then your routine can be shorter, 20-30 minutes is enough. Follow your baby. It is supposed to be a relaxing, bonding time.
What should the bedtime routine look like? You can start with a fun/relaxing bath. Some babies get very excited during bath time. Note that warm water still relaxes the muscles and the body. It also helps with melatonin production. From this point, it is better to avoid going back to the living room. Head straight to the nursery, put pj’s on, maybe give your baby a nice and relaxing massage if she’s up for it.
Nursing at bedtime is not only a feed. It is also a comfort and cuddles with a parent. It is a great moment to bond and spend some quiet, undisturbed time with your baby. Many families breastfeed in the first months, a year so the baby has plenty of these special moments with a mother. Dad’s often feel left behind a little bit. That’s why I recommend adding a bedtime story as a part of a bedtime routine. Dad gets to hang out and cuddle with the Little One, mommy gets a 10-minute break and the baby has important quality time with both parents, win-win-win 🙂 All those cuddles and kisses will help your baby feel safe and loved, and it is important to say good night to mom and dad for the long night sleep. Shhhh….
If your child is healthy and after implementing all of the above tips, still has trouble sleeping, we recommend contacting a sleep consultant. They will help you improve your child’s sleep. Your Little One might be overtired, so it may require specialist support to restore his daily rhythm and make up for sleep deprivation. However, we advise against consulting people who guarantee quick results. Their solutions may be too violent. The method of cry-it-out is quick, but it has many negative effects on the child, and is often psychologically brutal for the parent.
There are more and more people dealing with children’s sleep problems. However, it is worth paying attention to the method they use, how long sleep training takes, where they get their knowledge and whether they have a certificate that can confirm it. Check if they are people without specialist training, whose knowledge is based solely on their own parenting experience or information extracted only from books. The experience we gain through our parent role is undeniably valuable, but unfortunately also limited to adapt every situation.
If you find a certificate on the consultant’s website, it is worth checking who grants it and on what terms it consists to complete the course. Some certification courses can be completed in only one weekend! The price of a consultant with a recognized diploma may be slightly more expensive. The next criteria is the duration of the support provided. Mostly it lasts about 3 weeks. This is the most often proposed period and usually the optimal time needed to learn how to sleep. However, just being enough usually doesn’t mean that will also work for you and your baby. If your child has big sleep issues, you may need longer support that will eliminate unnecessary tension. Faster methods are more uncompromising. On the other hand, we can expect a much softer approach from the slower ones, both for the baby and the parents. In our offer you will find a package, in which you will receive daily support for up to 8 weeks.
We hope that our advices will help you to improve your child’s sleep. Sleep well!
Ola & Dorota