Bedstars Ultimate Guide to Getting Your Children to Sleep

Getting your children to sleep, setting up a bedtime routine.
Reading Time: 11 minutes

Getting Your Children to Sleep

Putting the kids to bed is the time of the day. Many parents love and dread in equal measure. Love because they get their ‘us’ time; however, they could also hate it because kids don’t want to sleep!

All that energy, all that zest for life… and they don’t understand how essential sleep is for them (or us!). They stall. They try to negotiate. Anything to steal a few more precious moments of awake time, but at the end of the day, they still have to go to bed. 

Parents worldwide go through this, so know you’re not alone in any struggles to get your children off to bed and sleep. You don’t have to struggle anymore, though. This guide is here to help. It’s the Bedstar Ultimate Guide to Getting Your Children to Sleep. 

Studies into children’s sleeping patterns have highlighted the importance of sleep for children, particularly in newborns, and the direct impact of sleep on their mental and physical development. By the age of two years, a child will have spent more time asleep than awake, whilst, on average, around 40% of a person’s childhood is spent sleeping.

Sleep is an important factor in a child’s development, and it is essential to create an environment where your child can get a good night’s sleep.

Mum telling a bedtime story .
Pictured: Mum telling a bedtime story, creating a routine for children’s bedtimes is crucial. Recent research by the National Literacy Trust found a link between reading and mental well-being, so sharing a bedtime story with your child could help to improve their emotional health.

Bedstar provides a range of kid’s beds ideal for helping your child get a good night’s sleep. The right children’s bed is an integral part of creating an environment that will encourage your child to sleep, with the child’s bed being the centrepiece of any kid’s bedroom.

TV and DVD players in a bedroom can harm a child’s sleep, and it is important to try and make the bedroom as relaxing as possible. Keep the room at a stable temperature all night and block out as much outside light as possible. Even something like attaching mobiles to children’s beds at night could keep them awake.

Health and behaviour suffer if children have a TV in the bedroom.

When it’s time to put your child in bed, get into a bedtime routine.

A light snack, a bath, and brushing their teeth are all valuable steps for getting your child ready for bed. Sitting next to your kid’s bed and reading a book or story to your child can be a great way to help them relax and naturally fall asleep.

Once your child is asleep, try to stay away from their bed as much as possible. We know that it’s natural to rush straight to your kid’s bed as soon as they start to cry or as soon as they wake up, but this isn’t always the right action to take. Unless it is a severe issue such as sickness or falling, leaving the child to fall back to sleep can help them develop a natural sleep pattern and tell them that they should sleep independently.

Keeping the area around your child’s bed simple and relaxing whilst introducing a simple and effective routine can make the difference in ensuring that your child gets a good night’s sleep.

Why your child isn’t sleeping enough

When a child won’t go to bed or doesn’t seem to be getting the sleep they need, please don’t jump to the conclusion they’re refusing to play ball. There may be other reasons why they’re not in a hurry to retire to that cosy bedroom you’ve decorated and furnished for them or, once they’re in there, for them still having issues with sleep:

Anxiety

Children don’t always tell us everything. Sometimes, they leave it up to us to guess if something bothers them. They may be being bullied at school or online (or, even worse, both). Things at school, such as tests, homework, or a struggle to make new friends, could be causing them anxiety. If one parent works away, they may be missing them. The child(ren) may have become anxious because of something they’ve seen on TV or heard in a story. If they’re not sleeping well or not willing to go to bed, don’t assume they’re rebellious.

The child wants to be part of the excitement.

This one is self-explanatory. It’s a rare child that doesn’t want to join in all the fun. If everyone else stays up and watches a movie or something terrific on TV, your child won’t want to miss out. If they feel as if they are, they might dig their heels in regarding bedtime. 

Too much homework and/or extracurricular activities make the child overtired

Child over tired from too much homework.
Pictured: Child asleep at his desk. The most common guideline is the 10-minute rule, which states that a child should have about ten minutes of homework per night for each grade.

Kids go to sports clubs, play with friends after school and do homework, which tires them out. You need to manage your children’s activities outside of school, especially if they’re staying up past their bedtime to complete homework. Have a chat with their teacher if necessary.

Sometimes, they sleep too little. Does your child have a nap after school, for instance? Change their routine. Make them do their homework earlier and prepare their meals earlier so you can get them to bed sooner. At weekends, ensure they’re active during the day to sleep easier at night.

The transition to bedtime is too short.

Like everyone else, kids need their downtime and to be relaxed before going to bed. If you’re playing games, watching a movie, or doing some other activity that gets the kids excited right before bedtime, you’ll have to calm them down before you put them to bed. Sending them to bed straight afterwards won’t work. Schedule some quiet time between the activity and their bedtime so that they settle into sleep easier.

The child is asserting themselves.

As kids grow up, they like to assert their independence. To them, bedtime is the perfect opportunity for this. The time they go to bed is for you to decide, so don’t negotiate with them on this. Let them have a say in other aspects of bedtime, such as what pyjamas to wear, perhaps a new pair of their favourite pyjamas? But not what time they go to bed.

Batman Pyjamas.
Pictured: Children’s Batman Pyjamas.

Knowing how much sleep your child should get

One of the most important things you could ever do is understand how much sleep your child needs, including daytime naps, the hours they sleep each day, and hours of sleep each night. When you have a firm idea of how much they sleep, you can help them develop a regular sleeping pattern and get them to bed to have all the sleep they need. Use the guide below to help you:

AgeHours of Sleep Required
1 to 4 weeks16 to 17 hours per day
1 to 4 monthsApproximately 16 to 17 hours per day, with night/day sleeping cycles beginning to kick in.
4 months to 1 year 14 to 15 hours of sleep per day, with up to 3 naps during the day and evening and, generally, sleeping through the night.
1 to 3 years 12 to 14 hours of sleep, although often not getting as much because of parents’ schedules or the schedules of older children in the house.
3 to 6 yearsApproximately 11 to 12 hours, but may still require a short nap during the daytime.
7 to 12 years10 to 12 hours of sleep per night, although often they only get around 9 to 10 hours.
13 to 18 years8 to 10 hours per night, but rarely get this due to homework and other activities encroaching upon their sleeping schedule.

A solid awareness of how much sleep your child should be getting will help you form the right strategy for organising your child’s bedtime.

Putting your child(ren) to bed

Putting your children to bed is a chance to bond with them while also encouraging your child(ren) to get the rest they need to function well the next day. Creating a calm environment and bringing a child into a consistent bedtime routine will ease them into the Land of Nod more smoothly and set them up for a restorative, revitalising sleep. Approach this with the steps below:

Establish a routine

You can encourage healthy sleep for your children by establishing a regular bedtime routine. Bathing the children, getting them changed into their pyjamas, making them brush their teeth, and then reading to them is a typical routine. Play some soothing music when they’re in bed, if necessary. Start the routine early enough for them to get plenty of sleep. Consider a bedtime periodic reward chart.

Bedtime Reward Chart.
Pictured: Bedtime reward chart. There are free resources online to print these, like the one above, which is available from rewardcharts4kids.com

Stay consistent

You’ve established the routine and set a time for bed. Now, it’s time to stick to it. That may not be easy, depending on your schedule as a parent, but consistency is the key, so follow the routine as closely as possible. This is when toddlers might start climbing out of bed, and slightly older children will try to negotiate to stay up for a little longer. Stick to your guns.

Keep evenings peaceful

When your child changes into their pyjamas, you can do the same to create a more relaxed environment that suggests winding down. Dim the lights and turn off all electronic devices such as the TV, tablets, and mobile phones an hour or more before bedtime. They make it harder for children to fall asleep. 

Set the bedroom up for sleep.

The more appealing you can make the room look, the better, so set the child’s bedroom up for sleep. Make sure the bed is nice and comfortable, with plenty of pillows and a good children’s mattress, and generally so irresistible that they can’t wait to get into bed! For toddlers and younger children, a themed bed could also work well. 

Close the curtains, dim any lights and ensure that the bedroom is just the right temperature for allowing the child to sleep, which should be between 18 and 22ºC. Since you’re creating optimal sleep conditions, remove TVs, tablets, and other electronics or distractions. 

Julian Bowen London Bus 3FT Single Wooden Bunk Bed, Themed Beds are a great idea to make bedtime more fun.
Pictured: Julian Bowen London Bus 3FT Single Wooden Bunk Bed. Themed beds are a great idea to make bedtime more fun.

Getting your child to sleep alone

There’s some debate about co-sleeping and the age at which children should sleep in their bed. Although many children transition from a cot or their parents’ bed to their bed between 2 and 3½ years, it depends on your parenting style. Some will stay in their parents’ bed until as late as 4 years old. Either way, when it’s time to make that transition, the child isn’t going to go along with it magically, so here’s how to approach the situation:

Explain to the child what’s going to happen.

Parents may find it hard to leave their children alone, but they need rest, not their parents with them. Explain to your child what’s going to happen and why. They need to understand your reasoning. If they don’t, they won’t cooperate as readily and will feel as if you’ve abandoned them. Tell them that sleep is important for them to grow healthy and strong and that parents must get their sleep and rest, too.

Establish a sense of security.

A lot of children hate the dark. They think a monster could be lurking in the wardrobe and waiting to gobble them up the minute you turn the light out. Your presence in their bedroom may soothe the child, but you can’t stay there forever, which is why a doll, teddy bear, blanket, or other transitional objects can provide them with comfort as they settle down to sleep.

Child feeling insecure at bedtime.
Pictured: Child feeling insecure at bedtime. The primary issue in separation anxiety is that a child feels insecure and fearful when they are on their own

Move to a chair (and start moving further away)

If you lie next to your child while putting them to bed, stop and switch to a chair. Should they raise any objections, let them know that you feel more comfortable in the chair. Be reassuring, but also be firm. Gradually, it would help if you moved further and further away from the bed. Take a small break to go to the toilet and allow the child to get used to short absences. Eventually, move the chair outside the door, letting them know you’re still there but remaining firm. If they get up, tell them to get back to bed.

Take things slowly

Child sleeping with bear.

Your child will get out of bed, and you’ll have to put them back in it. You can be sure of that, so when you lead them back to their bed, let them know you’ll be back in shortly to check they’re okay. Start with a short interval of 10 minutes so that you’re not away too long and prevent them from getting anxious, but neither are you leaving too little time for them to fall asleep. Increase the time between visits back to the child’s bedroom gradually.

Stay calm

Don’t lose your temper if they appear in your bed when they should be on their own or they wander into the living room while you’re watching TV. Ultimately, you’re trying to break a long-term routine for them, and it won’t happen overnight, so keep calm. Remind them of the agreement by saying, ‘Do you remember that we said you’d sleep in your bed tonight? Go and get back in there, and I’ll check in on you shortly.’ Keep to your word, even if you’re feeling tired.

A teddy bear or other transitional objects such as a blanket or doll can provide children with comfort as they settle down to sleep.
Pictured: A teddy bear or other transitional objects, such as a blanket or doll, can provide children with comfort as they settle down to sleep.

Helping them on their way

When it comes to getting your children to sleep, it’s not about following a routine or engaging in a battle of wills with your child(ren). There are some simple extra measures you can take to help your child get to sleep at night.

Make sure your kids are active.

Children running through a field.
Pictured: Children running through a field. Children need at least 60 minutes of physical activity each day. The activity should be age-appropriate and fun.

It may be easier to entertain your children by letting them watch cartoons and movies all day, but they need to be active, which means you should encourage them to get some exercise. Take them out to a park to play football or to just run around and play. Avoid this any less than three hours before bedtime because the exercise could stimulate them and make it harder for them to sleep.

Keep them away from caffeine and heavy meals before bed

Three is the magic number! Many children love soft drinks and would drink them all day if possible! All that sugar and caffeine will place a job on your hands when it comes to getting them to bed. Snacks are fine before bedtime, but they should be light, healthy snacks such as fruit or peanut butter on toast.

Healthy Children's Bedtime Snacks.
Pictured: Healthy children’s bedtime snack

Watch out for sleep disorders.

Be vigilant of your child(ren) ’s sleep patterns and behaviours at night and during the day. If you’ve established a suitable routine and tailored it to their needs, but they’re still not getting enough sleep, they may have a sleep disorder. Chronic tiredness during the day, difficulty concentrating, and behavioural problems are all symptoms that indicate this could be the case, so if you observe them in your child, you should consult a doctor for advice.

Child fast asleep at their school desk.
Pictured: Child fast asleep at their school desk. It’s rare, but serious illnesses may cause extreme tiredness in children.

Helping your child to sleep is a balance between establishing the right conditions, understanding their sleep needs, exercising discipline, and being aware of any reasons they might not be sleeping as they should. Get ready for them to stall and negotiate bedtimes, as well as for the odd frustration or two when you think you’ve finally got them down for the night, and carry on regardless. Once they get used to how things will be, they’ll start cooperating, and you’ll look forward to bedtimes rather than dread them!

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