Most kids are happier, easier to get along with, and more receptive to learning new things when they go to sleep earlier. Obviously, this depends on what your daily schedule looks like, not every family needs to get going early in the morning and some children are able to sleep in until 9 or even 10 a.m. and do!
I find that 7 a.m. is a common wake up time for kids and toddlers and it’s a good place to start. If your child already wakes naturally later and that is working for your family, you can adjust for that time. It’s best to go with what your child’s body clock is in line with (if you can) rather than to try and fight it.
Try to find that magic window in time for putting them to bed.
The main thing is that you want your little one to be getting enough sleep. This means looking at where they’re naturally waking, or where you need them to wake, and counting back to get 11-12 hours of sleep. So, if your child naturally wakes at 7 a.m., then get them to bed by 7 p.m.
If your child wakes at 7 a.m. and you are finding they have a ton of energy around 7 p.m., chances are they are overtired.
(Check out my blog post “Avoiding the Dreaded Second Wind (and an Overtired Toddler)” for more information on overtired kids!)
Overtired kids can be hyperactive, funny, amusing, rowdy, and even a bit frantic. They may experience mood swings where they’re laughing and then crying or both at the same time (hands up if you’ve been this tired yourself). Basically, if you get to bedtime and they seem extra energetic, it’s likely that you have missed their tired window and have an overtired child on your hands. See, when we do not give our body the sleep it craves, a stress response is triggered, and adrenaline is released. This stress response is what creates those sometimes entertaining and high energy moments that make no sense at the end of a busy day.
Watch for Signs of Sleepiness
Trying to put an overtired child to sleep is very challenging and often results in unnecessary battles and hardship on both of you. Avoid fighting it out with an overtired child by paying attention to when they start to show signs of being tired.
Sleepy kids and tired toddlers may:
· Be more clumsy than normal
· Have stronger food preferences (picky eating)
· Be clingy
· Cry and whine
· Become bored with toys and games they normally enjoy
· Demand constant attention
Babies that are tired often:
· Suck on fingers and hands (may also be a sign of hunger if they have not been fed)
· Pull at their ears
· Have tight fists
· Be unable to control their eyes
· Arch their back
· Flail their arms and legs
· Look concerned or frown
Don’t forget the bedtime routine.
I cannot stress the importance of a bedtime routine enough. Ideally, you’re just finishing up your bedtime routine at the time they start to exhibit signs of being ready for sleep. Bedtime routines cue the body and the brain that it’s time to wind down from day to night. Thirty minutes is a great length for your child’s bedtime routine. You can include a nightly bath, massage, story, and even snacks or a drink of water.
Early bedtimes don’t just benefit children, they also benefit parents. In fact, researchers have found that children with earlier bedtimes have better health-related quality of life — and their mothers have improved mental health.
You can have your evenings back. We all need downtime, time to reconnect with our partners or time to just recharge. If you need personal support on this journey, I am here for you. We can work together locally, here in Calgary, or virtually if you are located anywhere else in the world. I offer a FREE 15 minute evaluation call. During the call I will ask a few more details, offer any advice that might help immediately or talk about services that might work for your family!