5 Simple Ways To Improve Your Child’s Sleep
These are 5 REALLY simple steps you can take to improve your child's sleep. They're not magic bullets, but 5 things I find myself suggesting to most of my clients in my sleep consulting work!
1. Follow an age appropriate routine.
By this, I mean ensuring they aren’t awake for too long, or too short a time before they need to sleep again! You can download Baby Sleep Consultant’s free routines here. Overtiredness and undertiredness can cause difficulties with settling to sleep and staying asleep, so getting this spot on for your wee one can make the world of difference! (disclaimer - obviously all babies are different, but these are a good starting point.)
2. Have their sleep environment on point.
There are so many opinions out there about what the perfect sleep environment is, but this is what I have found helpful with the hundreds of clients I have worked with!
- A dark room for naps and overnight - aiming for it to be as dark as it is at night, during the day. Sleepytot’s EasyNight blackout blinds are my favourite for this!
- The right temperature - 18-20 degrees is optimal. Utilize a fan or a heater if necessary, your child will struggle to sleep if they are too hot or too cold.
- The right sleepwear - use cotton or merino rather than synthetics where possible, these fibres breathe, meaning your child will stay much more comfortable! Follow the guidelines on the sleeping bag you are using for layering underneath the bag. SmartSnugg’s amazing dynamic layering guide is super useful if you are using a SmartSleeper most other sleeping bags will have a layering guide for you to follow.
3. Introduce Positive Sleep Associations
Positive sleep associations are ‘things’ your little one will associate with falling asleep, which don’t require your input throughout the night. These include:
- A sleeping bag or swaddle (for younger babies)
- White noise that plays for the duration of their sleep
- A cuddly or lovey (once your baby has both hands out of their swaddle and shows good control over their movements)
- A predictable wind down routine - a set of actions you go through with your child each time before they sleep, that gives them the chance to feel calm and ready to sleep. Predictability is the key here!
4. Ensure calorie intake supports quality sleep
Babies and toddlers are amazing little calorie regulators and if they aren’t getting their fill of calories during the day, they will require them overnight. It’s very normal for a baby under about a year old to wake for a feed overnight, but if you notice that feed (or feeds!) is impacting their daytime feeding or hunger for solids, it’s time to think about reducing down their calorie intake overnight to support better daytime uptake.
5. Work on self settling.
The polarizing topic! If your baby is over 4 months old, studies (1, 2, 3, 4, 5) show they are ready to start developing the ability to put themselves to sleep. Working on self settling doesn’t have to be Cry it Out, there are so many options for how you can do this (and it really comes down to what is the right fit for you and your child), but for the majority of the clients I have worked with, learning to put themselves to sleep was the biggest change we had to make to improve their sleep.
The way I look at this is, imagine you were just about asleep, or asleep even, and your pillow was taken away. Things would feel different, right? I know I would have to get up and walk around the house trying to find my pillow, probably disturb my husband and ask him if he knew where it was! Same for babies and children. If they fall asleep in one way - feeding, rocking, bouncing, holding and are transferred to bed, a lot will wake up feeling very confused as that is NOT how they fell asleep! They will then call out for help, needing those same actions to be repeated in order to get back to sleep. If your child is given the opportunity to figure out how to put themselves to sleep, when they wake between sleep cycles overnight, they won’t need any help to get back to sleep!
While learning to self settle is often the key to changing frequent night wakes, you’d be amazed how often we don’t actually have to do this, by making those small changes in points 1, 2, 3 and 4!
As always, if you’re feeling like you’ve done everything and you’re still not having much success, I’m happy to chat about your sleep situation and whether a consultation might be helpful - you can register for a chat here - you can either request to speak specifically with me, or another consultant on the team will get in touch :-)