Improving Your Child's Sleep

Sleep during parenthood is a bit of an oxymoron. It is about as precious as that first sip of coffee, yet as unattainable as the ability to drive to work in the morning without spilling that coffee on your newly ironed shirt.

As parents, we tend to put an enormous amount of focus on sleep. We want it, we seek it, we are willing to mortgage the house to get it. It is the hidden gem of parenthood that will make us feel human again.

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I wish I had THE answer for you, but I don’t. Before you stop reading, though, I will say there are certainly things you can be aware of that might help encourage those little “fighting sleep” soldiers to not only lay down and sleep, but stay asleep…at least until the sun crosses the horizon.

Here are a few things to consider:

1: Be aware of the temperature. Our body temperature naturally lowers at night. This is intentional and for our good, and we don’t want to work against that effect. Keeping a cool, but not cold, room will help the body maintain sleep cycles a bit longer.

2: If your child is above the age of three you can speak with your physician about introducing a weighted blanket that is titrated to no more than 10% of your child’s body weight, plus one pound. This gentle pressure mimics the effect of being held and increases rates of serotonin, which is a neurotransmitter that aids in sleep regulation and has an overall calming effect.

3: Consider adding a white noise maker. These machines tend to mimic a womb-like environment, which can help silence your baby’s built in alarm clock that wakes them frequently as they progress between sleep cycles. Note there is a difference however between “light” white noise (raindrops, crashing waves, heartbeat sound) and “heavy” white noise (a whirring fan, an A/C fan). Heavy white noises are what you are after, as they will work to keep them in those deeper sleep cycles longer.

4: If your child has a bigger problem falling asleep, rather than staying asleep, consider gifting them some fun new accessories for their bedroom this year that may help. Consider items like a bed tent, a projector that casts stars and planets around the room, and a speaker wherein you can play a calming bedtime story from your phone (available on the app store), complete with calming sound effects. You can also go old school for your preschooler and get a Walkman and headphones with some tapes or CD’s of bedtime stories.

Let’s be honest – any gift you buy them to help them sleep is really a gift to you. Hang in there! Another 15 years and you will be begging them to get out of bed before noon. Funny how that works.

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Sonia Martin
Author: Sonia Martin

Sonia is a licensed social worker and holds both a Bachelor’s and Master’s degree in Social Work. Her clinical focus is on helping parents and professionals understand the role of the brain in behavior and how to adopt therapeutic parenting techniques to mitigate negative behaviors. She is the Director of Central Alabama for Lifeline Children’s Services and is a mother to 7 sons, 3 of which were internationally adopted and she is a foster parent.

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Improving Your Child’s Sleep

by Sonia Martin time to read: 3 min