7 Step Sleep Routine to Guarantee your small people a good night sleep.
June 1, 2020
Wouldn’t we all like little to get a little more shut-eye. I don’t know about you but as a parent sleep becomes more valuable than ever.
My children James ane Ella have never been very good at sleep.
Ella was good for the first few weeks after birth until She contracted a respiratory tract infection. She wasn’t able to feed, so we spent nights holding her to make sure she was breathing. Of course, after this, she refused to ever sleep alone again.
James, on the other hand, came out screaming and didn’t stop until a wonderful sleep therapist (sorcerer!) gave me lots of advice and books to read.
Throughout the years they have struggled in general to self soothe. Every now and again they will go through little spats of not sleeping properly.
Ella in particular worries at night. As soon as she is alone in her room she dregs up any unpleasant thought she has ever had from every corner of her mind.
Now she has built up a fear of worrying, about worrying. It starts the very minute I ask her to do anything associated with bedtime. Like running the bath or go find a story.
James is quite happy to take himself off to bed and go to sleep now he is older. Although he wakes up super early and can’t go back to sleep. He needs a lot of sleep and if his routine is broken it takes a few days to recover.
From time to time sleep can become disrupted. If a child is experiencing stresses, anxiety or changes in our environment they may go through a phase of sleep struggles.
Since James and Ella were born they have had a strict sleeping routine. Most of which was constructed by the ‘sleep sorcerer’. Using the magic books she recommended, with a few adaptations to suit them and our lifestyle we have some very effective tools.
Needless to say, this current lockdown has brought on those struggles. Ella, in particular, has been struggling. She has been lying in bed worrying about our world and what is going on outside of our four walls.
Gradually over the first month or so she began falling asleep later and later. Eventually, she was going to bed with me. Simply because I was ready to go to bed until she was sleeping in my bed every night.
I was having to work from the bed next to her to get her to go to sleep. She became very upset if I tried to leave her to settle. Her bad thoughts were getting increasingly intense. To the point where she was crying her little heart out through tiredness and fear and stress.
In particular, I found it really difficult not having that little bit of time to myself in the evenings. From the moment I open my eyes to the moment I close them we are together every single day. I love my daughter with all my heart but there is only so much I can take. I found it was making me particularly snappy and even a bit resentful.
After a few weeks of this, I decided to change up their bedtime routine. to see if we could get them back into some sort of healthy rhythm.
since then they have slept soundly in their bed most nights
I actually turned it into an afternoon lesson for home learning. This way I could guarantee their full attention. Make a point of and lay emphasis on the fact that it isn’t just a conversation. Mummy isn’t just lecturing again. We are working together to solve the problem.
We talked about the situation we are currently in. Although we are enjoying each others company and blessed to have each other. We also need to make sure we are getting time to sleep and time to ourselves.
I also need time in the evening to get my stuff done. That will give me more time for them in the day.
Together we came up with a nighttime plan. It has worked like a dream- Not even sorry for the pun!
For the past 3 weeks, I think I have only had ‘corridor -creepers’ twice. On those really hot nights.
We also discussed that our brain doesn’t shut down immediately. When we get into bed we need to give it time to Settle. Our brain has to organise and store all of our thoughts and memories from the day before it can rest.
Ella will lie in bed for 10 mins then get up and claim she can’t sleep.
After careful deliberation, we came up with a full bedtime routine. The beauty of organising it together meant I am not just telling them what was going to happen. This had a big impact. They felt in control and onboard with the plan.
– Also useful when Ella moans about getting in the bath – and every day since. I kindly remind her it was her idea and it’s working really well. So shut up and get in the fucking bath, I think behind smiling eyes with a big fake mum-grin!
So here’s our step by step guide.
~ Set the Mood
Start by going up before they do to dim the lights and close the curtains.
Turn on lamps or a night light to create an evening glow.
Now that it’s so much lighter outside children in particular struggle to understand that it is night time. Creating a mellow atmosphere will naturally trigger their sleep hormones and let them know what time of day it is.
~ Relaxing Bath
We start the bedtime routine earlier than we did before to give some time to relax in the bath. I encourage quiet play and remind them it’s winding downtime.
Have the room dimply lit, close the blind if possible and add some lavender oil if you have it.
Lavender is naturally calming. Aside from that on an when used for the same routine on a regular basis the smell will remind them of its bedtime.
After a while, the smell will help to remind them. If they can smell the lavender from downstairs it will instantly remind them what time it is. It will be less of an argument when you then go to tell them its time for bed.
I say this with a huge amount of empathy and understanding. Bedtime is one of the times of day you’re most likely to bicker or snap at eachother. I know this is a challenge for me. For me, it is the most difficult time of day to stay calm. Enough to make it a step in our routine.
Children never want to go to bed especially in the summer when it’s still light and warm outside.
Choose this time to be forgiving. Try the 1-2-3 method or touch and talk.
( Touch and talk- is when you touch their shoulder to get their attention before you speak rather than telling to the end of the garden or bedroom)
By the end of the day, everyone is feeling tired and worn out. Try to remember, ending the day on a bad note can be a huge cause of angst for a child.
I have sort of ‘clocked off ‘ for the day by then. I want to get the routine done and dusted quick and snappy. But resist. keep calm, deep breath, a swig of gin, smile and kindly guide them upstairs.
If your child is feeling positive during their routine it will become a time of day they look forward to. Less likely to resist. It will reduce the likely hood of negative thoughts when they go to bed.
How many times have you sent your child off to bed and 5 minutes later your hear “Muuuuum, I’m hungry’ from the top of the stairs? Nip this in the bud straight away by providing a snack.
It is also an extra opportunity to put some more nutrients into their bodies.
We have a list of about 4 different bedtime options. served with either their water in a beaker or some warm milk. Porridge oats Toast and peanut butter / Peanut butter and banana sandwich. /banana and Honey sandwich. Bedtime smoothie- ( usually consist of the almost dodgy fruit and veggies to wobbly for the plate) Think carb and protein mix – Avoid sugar, caffeine or E- numbers.
A few months James and Ella told me they didn’t want story any more but we have brought it back.
Its another really good way of securing those positive vibes before bed.
Try to let them pick the book. It’s also good to have a few educational or emotionally educational books up your sleeve. Especially ones that reinforce positive thoughts or encouraging sleep.
I used to make the mistake of reading what I thought was good for them. I’m a bit of a book snob. They got board, wriggled and messed around and I would end up telling them off and just sending them to bed – now I just read any old rubbish they want.
If you have one you would like to read them due to an educational benefit. Explain that you can pick one and they can pick one. It makes it a lot easier to negotiate if they are getting two. Make sure you time plan it so you don’t miss the start of your TV programme.
I am also really strict with the rules – I will start reading the book at 7 pm. Weather they are in the room or not. Them’s the rules like it or not!
It encourages them to speed up and allows you to stay calm.
If they aren’t listening, give a quiet 1-2-3 and then put the book down and offer to chat for 10 mins instead. Remember to keep the lights dim and lamps or night light.
Do some deep breathing techniques after the story. If you don’t have time for a full meditation, simply asked them to take three deep breaths.
Imagine all of the bad thoughts coming out in their breath and inhale good thoughts. It takes 2 mins and really helps them release before they lie down.
From my experience Just putting the CD on alone didn’t seem to work. In addition to steps 1-6, they work really well.
Before you leave the room remind them that your brain takes a few minutes to shut down. Give them a specific time when they are allowed to leave the room if they can’t sleep.
This amount of time depends very much on the age and attention span of your child. If you think that your child is going to be scared to come down or getting upset before an hour set that time for 20-30 minutes. For Ella it is 45 mins – I show her that time and set a timer so she knows I won’t forget either,
The steps written out like this look like a lot but actually this routine is as long as you make it, ours takes about an hour and a half but that includes a half an hour soak in the bath for each of them.
This time is great because from then I can guarantee they are not in front of any type of screen.
If you have a partner one of you can be making a snack or running a bath or with one child picking the story.
James and Ella take it in turns to go first in the bath. The first one to go gets a little more time to play. While the other picks story or does the dishwasher and I make a snack. Or visa versa, this way they get equal say through the week.
So that’s it , Sleep tight kids – Have a good evening parents!