Top 5 Healthy Sleep Tips for Babies and Toddlers:
Whether you’re a new parent hoping to set a healthy sleep foundation, or an experienced
parent looking to improve your child’s sleep, considering these 5 tips will be essential to
Children sleep best in a room that encourages deep sleep. An ideal sleep environment is very dark, quiet, boring, and cool. I recommend black out curtains or shades, a continuous white noise machine, and leaving the distracting mobiles or toys in the
playroom. A cozy sleep temperature is typically between 68-72 degrees.
The timing of sleep in babies and children over 4 months of age is governed by their circadian rhythm, or natural body clock. This means that they are biologically hard wired to fall asleep easiest and achieve the most restorative sleep at certain times of the day. An age appropriate schedule for a baby requiring 2 naps includes the first nap beginning close to 9am, the second nap beginning close to 1pm, and bedtime between 6-7pm.
Babies and children thrive on structure and routine. Schedules that are structured around sleep, meals, and play help to reinforce those natural body clocks that help to prepare our children for transitioning into each activity with ease. A bedtime routine, or sleep routine, is a brief and simple set of soothing activities in preparation for sleep that happen in the exact order and amount every single time. This helps to cue their growing brains that sleep is coming, and helps them to feel safe and secure in knowing exactly what to expect.
The Self Soothing:
I recommend placing your child down to sleep while still awake. Babies and children who are given the opportunity to fall asleep independently, are less likely to experience bedtime resistance, night wakings, and early risings. When children associate a certain activity, such as laying with a parent, watching TV, or nursing with falling asleep, they will learn to require that activity every time they transition between sleep cycles. A child that is able to fall asleep independently can wake up only slightly between sleep cycles, notice that everything is exactly as it was upon falling asleep, and then drift back to sleep seamlessly.
The consistency in which parents respond to their children during sleep routines and sleep times play a significant role in how well babies and children are able to sleep long term. Bedtime resistance, night wakings, early risings, and curtain calls are a few of the very normal ways in which our children challenge us in regards to sleep. The key to handling these situations and to avoid creating lasting habits that spiral out of control, is maintaining a united front amongst caregivers, and responding in a consistent way that demonstrates clear boundaries around sleep.
If your child is sleeping poorly, and you’ve noticed room for improvement in one or more areas, I encourage you to make the adjustments that are possible for your family. If your child is a brilliant sleeper, and you’ve noticed one or more areas that don’t line up with your situation, don’t worry about it. Nothing’s a problem unless it’s a problem, as some babies and children will sleep well even without the absolute ideal schedule, routine, or environment. However, do keep these tips in mind, for if and when a sleep problem begins to rear its ugly head in the future, you will know exactly what needs to be adjusted to ensure a well rested and happy family.
Certified Pediatric Sleep Consultant