A new study has recently been released that details just how sleep-deprived parents can be. It’s estimated that parents can expect to go without a good night’s sleep for about 6 years after their child is born. You heard that right – 6 years! Long after the middle-of-the-night feedings have ended, parents’ still face teething, separation anxiety, illness, nightmares, regressions, developmental leaps, and a damaged circadian rhythm that takes years to recover. It’s a wonder that parents can function at all!
With all that said, it’s important to maximize every opportunity to rest that you can get. A relaxing bedtime routine can help lull babies and children into a drowsy dream state, and earn you a few extra hours of sleep. Here are a few ideas that will hopefully help your entire family grab some much-needed zzz’s.
1. Minimize distractions: turn off the television, screens, and any loud, buzzing toys. Instead, play calming music (here is my favourite bedtime playlist!), and move to more quiet activities like puzzles, art, or reading books. Plenty of research has shown that bright lights and loud noises stimulate the brain, which is the opposite of what you want to do before bedtime.
2. Have a routine: this doesn’t have to include the same items as other families (not all kids love a daily bath!), but what’s important is that the same things happen in the same order each night. This could be: dinner, bath, books, singing songs, and bedtime for one family; or books, dinner, pjs, puzzle, prayers, and bedtime for another. Being consistent with the routine will signal to children that bedtime is coming, and help their bodies get ready to fall asleep.
3. Hello darkness: make your child’s room as dark as possible. Experiencing plenty of daylight during the day and darkness at night helps improve our natural melatonin production – even in adults! Melatonin is a big player in regulating sleep-wake cycles, and can help everybody naturally fall into a healthy sleep pattern.
4. Cool it: keep the temperature of bedrooms relatively cool, if possible. 65-70 degrees is recommended as a comfortable sleeping temperature for babies and toddlers. Even though this temperature might feel chilly to adults during waking hours, young children require a cooler sleeping environment for a good night’s sleep.
5. It takes two: winding down with your child can be a wonderful bonding experience AND helps you both get ready for a restful sleep. Following these same types of rules – limiting screen time, keeping your bedroom cool and dark, following a routine, playing gentle music, some pre-bedtime snuggles with your kiddo – can be just as useful in helping you to score a few extra zzz’s during the early years of parental sleep deprivation.