Happy New Year! It doesn’t have to be January 1st to make changes, but it is “resolution season.” There’s no better time to make some goals for the new year.
While it’s pretty easy to figure out where you want to make a change, sometimes it’s hard to follow through. It’s no secret that goals are easier to achieve when they are specific, written down, and contain some element of accountability.
We’ve started your 2019 off by doing the hard part — we identified five achievable sleep goals for you and your family. Whether it’s getting your toddler to sleep, or establishing some good habits for you, here’s how to make 2019 the “Year of Sleep” in your home.
Soothing Bedtime Routine
Children (and many adults) thrive on routine. To avoid the chaos at bedtime, create a calming bedtime routine. Some example activities include:
Set a Time — Once you decide on an age-appropriate bedtime, allow a “wind-down” period. Start at least a half-hour prior, pick up toys, stop any engaging games or excitement, and start to get into “bedtime mode.”
Bath – a warm bath does more than just wash off a sticky baby. Although some parents don’t bathe their little ones every night, science stands behind a warm dip in the tub. By quickly raising body temperature, then allowing it to cool, sleep comes easier and faster because it’s the cooling that makes you sleepy.
Stories — A bedtime story not only improves literacy, but it allows bonding between parent and child. A book is a far better choice than a screen. Not only does a story engage the brain, but it doesn’t emit blue light that can keep you or your child awake. Even “big kids” benefit from a bedtime story from their parents.
Tuck, Kiss, Lovey, Bed — Give your child a warning that “lights-out” is coming in a few minutes. Tuck them in, give a kiss, pat on the back, provide their favorite lovey, and say “night-night”.
Drowsy But Awake — One way to avoid overnight wake-ups is to make sure your child falls asleep on their own. When you leave their room they should be calm, but aware you’re leaving. Otherwise he or she might wake up in the middle of the night wondering where you are, and you know the rest!
Kids old enough to talk can start bargaining, so it’s important to be firm. You can always blame the clock for your exit.
In order to fall asleep at bedtime, it’s important that your baby or child isn’t overtired. You’ll need to decide on a schedule, that includes age-appropriate naps. While it’s important to be flexible, you’ll need to make sure that naps, wake times, and bedtimes happen at roughly the same times every day.
RELATED: Baby and Child Sleep: Sample Schedules from 6 Months to Preschool
Choose a wake-up time (usually 6:30-7:30) and make sure they are up. Most children under 18-months-old still take two naps per day. With a consistent wake time, those naps can start and end on a schedule that gets them the correct amount of daytime sleep.
Remember, sleep begets sleep. Skipping a nap to try and achieve a better bedtime doesn’t always work. An overtired child will often develop bedtime “super powers”, making it even tougher to calm down.
This one is for everyone! Studies suggest that moderate exercise can improve sleep. Part of this can be traced to the same effect as a bath — the temporary increase in body temperature exercise provides is followed by a cool-down that causes drowsiness. Just be sure to avoid vigorous exercise and play near bedtime.
In addition to exercise itself, being outdoors when it is sunny can help solidify the circadian rhythm, or your brain’s natural tendency to detect the difference between night and day. Not to mention, a little sunshine is important for vitamin D.
If it’s just too cold, rainy, or nasty to go outside, try and find an activity inside to get everyone’s heart rates up — no jumping on the couch though!
Does the sun peek over the windowsill at 5am and hit your toddler right at pillow-height? You’ll need to consider sleep environment. Light, sound, and temperature are important considerations for you and your child.
Room-darkening shades are a great solution for early moons and suns shining in the windows.
Some children can sleep through a hurricane, but others have trouble. Use a white noise machine to cover up environmental sounds such as socialization in the other room, nearby trains, and noisy neighbors.
Finally, cool, but not too cold, is the temperature that best suits sleep. Remember that the cooling down helps drowsiness. If it’s too cold or too hot, sleep might not come easily.
If your baby is too young for a blanket due to safety, try a wearable blanket or sleep sack.
If you’re parenting a 6-month-old or older, your resolution might be simply teaching them to sleep. Around six to eight months, most babies can learn to sleep through the night. If you’re just embarking on this journey, it’s a great single goal for the new year!
Track Their Schedule — start your sleep journey by tracking your child’s natural patterns. There’s an app for that! The Sleep Lady app is FREE and you can read about it here. Using an app can make your job easier, and if you decide to enlist a sleep coach, it will make their job easier too. The app even includes articles that are hand-picked for your child’s age.
Learn to Coach your Child — You can create a sleep plan for your child using Gentle Sleep Solutions. Videos, audio tracks, articles, and connections with other parents are all designed for you to put together a sleep plan.
Hire a Certified Gentle Sleep Coach — The Sleep Lady has coaches all over the world. Not only can you work with a coach in your area, you can work virtually! Many of our coaches have special experiences with certain age groups, lactation considerations, and special needs. Coaches are available in 13 languages too.
Make This the Year of Sleep
If you’ve gotten this far, you’re already committed! Write down your sleep goals and share them with a friend or fellow parent. That way you’ll be able to tell someone else about your achievements and receive support when things don’t go 100% as planned.
Once your child is on the way to great sleep habits, you can enjoy the benefits with more sleep for you. It’s a win-win!