New parents usually struggle with sleep issues; especially when it comes to newborn babies. It is a fact that most newborns do not sleep through the night right away. They wake up for nightly feedings and a lot of times their bodies have not distinguished between night and day. It is important to start early (in infancy) and get your child on a schedule. It will be difficult at first but if you start the process when they are young then it will be much easier when they get older.
Establish a Schedule
Just getting your baby on some type of a schedule is the first big step to creating good sleeping habits. Infants need to have a consistent eating schedule. If your baby wakes up every 4 hours for a feeding this is good. You can plan your schedule around the baby’s eating times. When the infant gets older the feedings will be farther apart. As early as possible try to get your infant to sleep less during the day and more at night. Of course it is hard to control the sleep patterns of a newborn, but try to help them distinguish between sleep time and just being sleepy. Parents need to be alert and read the signs (body language), if the infant is just a little sleepy you can try playing with them during the day to keep them awake and alert. If the baby needs sleep they will fall asleep on their own. Of course newborn babies need their rest and usually they sleep about 16 hours a day. If you can schedule the majority of their sleep time at night then you will probably be a happier parent.
Sleep Time for Toddlers
Toddlers are a different story. If your toddler has not grown up with a chaotic sleep schedule then you as a parent are in for a big challenge. It is much more difficult to change bad habits then to form them at an early age. The most important aspect of a healthy bedtime routine for a child at any age is a set schedule. Establish a set bedtime. Select a time that works well for everyone. A good time to put young children to bed is between 8:00pm and 9:00 pm depending on their nap times etc. After you chose a bedtime then you need to create a set routine. It can be a story before bed, a soothing bath to calm the child or quiet time with mom and dad; whatever you chose make sure you do the exact same thing every night so the child knows this is what we do when we are getting ready for bed. Consistency is extremely important. If you are consistent and develop a “bedtime ritual” then the child will train their bodies to react to the activity, therefore preparing for “sleep mode.”
Falling Asleep on Their Own
Teaching your child to fall asleep on their own is a big issue for many parents. Starting young is the best way to teach a baby how to go to sleep on their own. Children thrive on reassurance and security. For infants if they are just starting to fall asleep try putting them in their bed before they are actually asleep and let them dose off on their own. It might be hard at first to get them used to lying in their bed instead of in your arms. If you need to let them cry a little that is fine, just make sure they are comfortable and in the proper sleeping position. Babies who can fall asleep on their own have an easier time of soothing themselves back to sleep if they wake up in the night. If your infant wakes up in the night respond to them, but try to let them put themselves back to sleep. Check on the baby and make sure they are comfortable then leave them to go back to sleep on their own. If you pick them up and rock them back to sleep then they will come to expect that and rely on that every night. The bottom line is a child who can put itself back to sleep will have healthier sleeping habits and well rested parents.
Some children suffer from sleeping problems. One of the most widespread sleeping problems is a nightmare. Nightmares are common in all children, especially between the ages of 3 and 6. Nightmares are part of normal development and young children often have nightmares of monsters and scary things. Children also have nightmares about specific events that may have worried them or scared them, such as getting lost in a grocery store or being afraid of an animal. The best way for parents to handle nightmares is by providing lots of reassurance and comfort.
Healthy sleeping habits have been linked to development in young children. If you child gets enough sleep and is well rested they are more likely to be alert and ready to learn new skills. A constant sleep schedule, a normal bedtime routine and set times for naps and night-time will help to establish good sleeping habits early in life. Remember older children need their rest too; so don’t abandon the sleep schedule pattern as the child becomes older. You may have to alter the times and the routine but make sure your child is getting the proper sleep no matter what their age. Even teenagers need sleep for proper development.