One of the easiest things you can do to help get your child sleeping through the night is to create what I like to call a ‘sleep sanctuary'.
What do I mean by that?
Basically, you want to create an environment for your child that is very calming and comfortable. When you bring your child into this room, you want them to immediately understand that this is where sleep comes quickly and naturally.
The good news is that the advice I'm about to share will work for babies, toddlers, or pre-schoolers. In fact, these tips even work for adults too!
The five steps I'm about to share with you will make your child's nightly journey into sleep easier and much more relaxing — for both of you!
Step 1: Keep it simple.
One of the biggest mistake parents make is creating what I call a ‘carnival atmosphere' in their child's room.
I know, I know... It's tempting to cover the walls with all those adorable elephant stencils and hang a cute musical mobile over the crib and fill the shelves and crib with stuffed animals. But trust me when I tell you that—when it comes to children's rooms—less is more.
The reason is simply that all this extra ‘stuff' can be distracting (or downright overstimulating) for a child, and the last thing you want to deal with at bedtime is an overstimulated child!
So my advice here is to de-clutter your child's room. Or, at the very least, de-clutter the crib by getting rid of:
- extra blankets
- stuffed toys
- positioning devices
When it comes to your baby's crib, remember that less is best. Not only does this create a much more calming sleep space, it's actually much safer, too! Overcrowded sleep environments can be a safety hazard.
Step 2: Keep it dark.
Contrary to popular belief, babies aren't afraid of the dark. In fact, most babies actually prefer a darker sleep environment than we adults do!
Plus, one of the biggest reasons a baby wakes up too early is simply because they are SO sensitive to even the slightest changes in light levels. In other words, when the morning sky starts to lighten, it can be enough to wake your baby!
It's for this reason that I'm a big fan of blackout blinds. (Those thick blinds or curtains that hotels use to keep it pitch black in your room even when it's the middle of the day.)
If you're on a REALLY tight budget you can always tape garbage bags to the windows. Not pretty, but it works!
Step 3. Keep It Quiet ... But Not Too Quiet
I like to tell parents that a baby's room can never be too dark ... but it CAN be too quiet!
Why? Because the amount of light that enters your child's room is something you can control pretty easily.
The amount of noise? Not so much.
Sure, you can tiptoe around the house and watch TV with the volume at a whisper, but there's always the chance that somebody's going to ring the doorbell, call your phone, or drop a saucepan in the kitchen!
With that in mind, I recommend two things:
- Get your child used to a little bit of background noise (like conversation, TV, housework, etc.) from a young age so that they'll be able to sleep through the part of your life that happens after they go to bed.
- Try out a white noise machine. A lot of parents swear by these, and I'm a big fan myself! A white noise machine does a great job of ‘masking' other sounds. However, make sure that you don't place the machine right beside your child's crib or bed, as some recent studies suggest that doing so might be bad for your child's hearing.
Step 4: Keep it cool.
One of the biggest mistakes parents make when putting their babies to bed is overdressing them.
I remember when I was a first-time mom, I always wanted to bundle my little son is several layers of clothing each night. You know, to keep him cosy. However, he would frequently wake in the night, and when I went in to check on him, he would often be too hot.
Overdressing your baby can also be a safety hazard, putting them at risk of overheating and SIDS.
It turns out that most experts recommend keeping your baby's room somewhere between 20 and 22 degrees Celsius.
In order to keep your baby warm, but not too warm, my recommendation is to use a baby sleeping bag. There are a lot of different kinds available, and you can get really cute ones!
Step 5: Keep it calm.
Starting about an hour before bedtime, your child's bedroom should become an oasis of calm.
During the rest of the day, it's fine to have all kinds of loud, rowdy fun in your child's room. But for the hour before you put your child down for the night, everything that
happens in their bedroom should be quiet and soothing.
This accomplishes two very important bedtime goals:
- It makes sure you are not getting your child excited or overstimulated right before bed. Remember how excited you used to get on Christmas eve as a child? That's what a rousing game of "peek-a-boo" can do to a baby!
- It helps you "set the tone" for the night. By not engaging in ‘active play' in the hour before bedtime, your child will understand that fun time is over for the day, and won't be tempted to try and start playing games with you after you've put them to bed for the night.
I'm not saying you should turn into some kind of unfeeling robot in the hour before bedtime, of course. I fully encourage cuddles, singing, laughter, storytelling, and so on. Just remember to keep it calm!
Creating a sleep sanctuary is a great way to set the stage for a healthy night's sleep, but if you're the parent of a baby or toddler who isn't sleeping through the night then chances are that there's a little more work to be done. Get in touch today if you need some support to build healthy sleep habits in your family.