There’s no two ways about it, getting young children to sleep can be a trying and time-consuming task, often ending up feeling more like a chore rather than the cosy, cuddly, quality time we all long for it to be.
In celebration of the 20th anniversary of Stokke’s best-selling crib, the Sleepi, Stokke sleep experts have compiled a guide to help babies and children settle and enjoy good quality rest, whilst also easing the process for shattered parents so that they can enjoy both bedtime and a peaceful evening beyond.
“Sleep is the heart of a growing child’s development”, says Stokke sleep expert Lucy Shrimpton – aka The Sleep Nanny. “Quality rest provides your little one with stronger immunity and is crucial for healthy growth, the formation of memories, and cognitive development.”
“To aid their sleep quality, ensure that your child has a bedtime routine that starts around an hour before going to bed. This can include a bath, massage, calming music, and bedtime stories.
“Try and aim for the same bedtime each evening, which will help their body clock get into a rhythm to ensure they start to feel sleepy at the right time.”
Our second Stokke sleep expert, Heidi Skudder from The Parent and Baby Coach, says: “Establishing a consistent bedtime routine is key; it creates a rhythm and a cue that sleep time is coming, even for week-old babies.
“Unless you’re happy for a night (or entire childhood) of family bed-hopping, I also recommend that children have their own sleep space. If your child is up and about in the night, provide reassurance and help him or her back to their own bed for more fuss-free nights in the longer term.”
Read on for the full Stokke guide to help children sleep well through the night and more tips on safer sleep for babies.
With toddlers and young children, you can actually begin preparing them for sleep during the daytime. A child that is stimulated and active throughout the course of the day is far more likely to be sleepy and amenable come bedtime, so aim to get the kids spending time in the fresh air, engaged in play with friends or siblings enjoying a walk, scoot or cycle through the park or burning energy in a pool, playground or soft-play centre.
When to sleep
It will come as little surprise that young babies have completely unique sleep patterns with an unrivalled ability to sleep no matter the time of day, however it is important to start introducing the concept of bedtime as early as possible.
Make sure both naptimes and bedtimes are consistent; shutting out daylight and keeping noise to a minimum.
There is no definitive rulebook on when to put your child to bed, however, as a general rule, infants need around 14-17 hours of sleep per 24 hour day; toddlers should be getting around 12 hours through the night; three to six year olds need between 10 and 12 hours rest; and seven to 12 year olds, between 10 and 11 hours.
Try to adjust bedtime to ensure your children are getting an adequate amount of sleep.
Block the light
When we see light, our bodies assume it’s time to wake up. When it’s dark, our bodies release melatonin, which relaxes the body and helps us to drift off.
For babies of course, it can take 12 weeks or more to show day-night rhythms in the production of melatonin, however, it’s worth reinforcing that darkness equals sleep as a learned behaviour from early on, by investing in black-out blinds for use during naps as well as at night-time.
It’s important to continue to promote the dark-sleep association into toddlerhood and right up to teens, to encourage healthy sleep habits in the longer term.
Aim to shut the blinds/curtains half an hour to an hour before bed, to help your child adjust both physically and mentally to the fact that it is bedtime.
The right temperature
A cool, well ventilated bedroom is a must – in fact, compared to adults, babies need slightly cooler temperatures when sleeping.
A room temperature of 16-20°C, along with light bedding or a lightweight, well-fitting baby sleep bag is ideal. In order to check whether your baby is too hot or cold, feel your baby’s tummy or the back of their next – if their skin is hot or clammy, remove one or more layers of bedclothes or bedding.
For young children, a room temperature of around 18-20°C is fine. Use a low-medium tog duvet, layering up with extra blankets in the cooler months if needs be.
A simple thermometer is all you need in order to ensure the room is at the correct temperature.
A consistent bedtime routine is a must to foster good sleep habits and should start an hour or two before bedtime.
Start with a bath; a great bonding opportunity for parent and child. Spending time in the water also exposes babies to new sensations such as the feeling of floating in water, the sounds of splashing, the sight of bubbles etc. Stimulation is important for infant development, so enhance it further by incorporating colourful toys such as plastic cups.
Older children will either love or hate bath time but the routine is key here too. Most will hate hair washing, so skip it whenever possible to allow them time to just enjoy the ritual. Make bath time a fun part of the evening and provide your full attention as that’s what every child craves after all.
Take children to their cool, dark bedrooms straight after the bath to continue the wind-down routine and condition them for sleep.
Go back to basics
Put away the screens! An old-fashioned bedtime story is the perfect precursor to sleep. Not only is it (another) great way to bond with your child, but it provides a wealth of educational and developmental benefits too. Reading promotes language and concentration skills, as well as boosting creativity.
We all know the benefits of relaxing with a book before bed and it’s no different for our children.
And when the moment arrives…
Stick to the same cut-off routine every night, whether this is a familiar saying or phrase or a hug and a kiss that signals (and incites) sleep-time.
This article is in in celebration of the 20th anniversary of the innovative Sleepi crib, premium children’s brand Stokke shares expert sleep tips to ensure sweet dreams for children and stress-free evenings for parents. F