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5 Things You Can Do Today To Improve Your Child’s Sleep

If you’ve started the new year with a resolution to improve your child’s sleep, and you’re not sure where to begin, here are five things that you can start working on today to make 2017 a more restful year for your entire family.

1. Make sure your child is getting enough sleep

The numbers in the chart below are just averages, but they’re a good place to start if you’re not sure how much sleep your child needs to be considered well rested. Every child is different, of course, but most children don’t veer from the averages by more than one hour. If your child is sleeping more than one hour less than the average amount, and especially if they seem tired and cranky, they may not be getting enough sleep.

Age Total Sleep Night Sleep Number of
Naps
1 week wide variation wide variation on demand
1 month wide variation wide variation on demand
4 months 15 hours 11 hours 4 to 8
6 months 14-1/4 hours 11 hours 3
9 months 14 hours 11-1/2 hours 2
12 months 13-3/4 hours 11-1/2 hours 2
18 months 13-1/2 hours 11-1/2 hours 1
2 years 13 hours 11-1/2 hours 1
3 years 12 hours 11 hours 1
4 years 11-1/2 hours    
5 years 11 hours    
6 years 10-3/4 hours    
9 years 10 hours    
12 years 9-1/4 hours    
15 years 8-3/4 hours    
18 years 8-1/4 hours    

2. Make sure your child is sleeping at the right time

When your child sleeps is just as important as how much they sleep. Too much awake time between naps, too late a bedtime, or too early a wake up time can cause your child to become overtired, which will make going to sleep and staying asleep more difficult. If you’re not sure about the timing of your child’s sleep take a look at my FCMB post on naps – it will give you an idea of typical awake windows by age and help you to decide if your child’s schedule needs tweaking.

To determine your child’s ideal bedtime, start with their average morning wake up time and count backwards the number of hours of sleep they require at night. For example, a typical six month old needs approximately 11 hours of sleep at night. If they wake for the day at 6:00 am, they should be sleeping by about 7:00 pm in order to get the 11 hours they need.

3. Create a sleep friendly environment – dark, quiet and cool

Although some children can sleep in bright rooms and noisy environments, most sleep best in a dark and quiet space. If you haven’t already, invest in room darkening shades, which are especially helpful during the summer when it’s light outside until 9:00pm. Keep mobiles and other stimulating toys out of the crib or bed, and keep electronics out of the bedroom. Use white noise to muffle sound (The Marpac Dohm is my favorite white noise machine) and make sure that the room isn’t too hot or too cold. Most experts agree that 68-72 degrees F is ideal temperature for sleep.

4. Have a consistent and relaxing bedtime routine

A predictable and relaxing bedtime routine not only gives your child the opportunity to wind down before bed – research shows that it can help your child fall asleep faster, wake up less and sleep longer. Try not to rush through the steps of your bedtime routine, and don’t be afraid to skip a bath or read one less book on days when you’re running behind schedule. The best routines are simple and calming, and don’t drag on too long – 30 to 45 minutes is a good time frame for a bath, pj’s, books or a song before lights out.

5. Make sure your child knows how to put themselves to sleep

If your child is waking frequently throughout the night, take a look at what’s happening at bedtime. Are you rocking, bouncing or feeding your child to sleep? If so, then chances are they’re expecting you to do the same thing every time they have a partial arousal throughout the night. Teaching your child to put themselves to sleep without assistance may seem daunting, but the reality is that if your child is developmentally ready and you have a plan they can probably learn this important skill much more quickly than you think.

Sweet Dreams, and Happy New Year!

Alison Bevan – Sleepytime Coach

Certified Pediatric Sleep Consultant – The Center for Advanced Pediatrics

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