The gifts have been opened, the sparklers have faded, and the holidays have officially come to an end. While this time of year can feel pretty depressing for many of us, I love turning the page onto a new calendar year. It’s a great opportunity to reflect – both personally and professionally – on the last year and set new goals and intentions for the year ahead. One thing I know for sure is that no matter what your goals are for the new year, getting better sleep is going to help you crush them. Have plans to learn a new skill? Sleeping better can help. Want to be more patient with your kids? Good sleep is key. Focused on getting in better shape? Sleeping enough is critical.
If you spent last year exhausted because your baby or toddler was having trouble sleeping, the first thing I want you to know is you are not alone. Studies show that 75% of parents want to change something about their child’s sleep. The good news is, there are some quick and easy things you can do TONIGHT to help improve your bedtime situation and get everyone sleeping all night long.
Over the holidays, it can be easy to get off schedule. Family parties, house guests, and New Year’s Eve may have had your little one up well into the night. Hopping right back on track with an early bedtime is critical to laying the foundation for some healthy sleep habits. Infants, toddlers, and school-aged children need 11-13 hours of nighttime sleep, so ensuring your child gets to bed early – especially on school-nights – will help them reach that goal easily. Not only that, but we sleep most deeply during the hours before midnight, so maximizing those hours can be super helpful for getting that rich, restorative rest our bodies need to heal, grow, and develop.
Light, natural or artificial, sends a message to our brains that it’s daytime and not time to sleep. Melatonin production – the hormone that helps up fall asleep and stay asleep – is triggered by darkness, so start turning down the lights an hour before you plan to put your child to bed. This is most important when considering electronics, which emit a blue light that is particularly adverse to baby’s shut-down process. If you’re looking to get your little one sleeping better at night and napping like a champ during the day, making their sleep space pitch black will help those zzz’s come more easily.
Not only is darkness helpful for sleep quality, but temperature is also an important consideration. It is so common for parents (especially new ones) to obsess over their baby’s comfort, and to be constantly worried as to whether or not they are warm enough. Babies, like their grownup counterparts, sleep best when they’re warm and snuggly inside of a cool environment. A warm nighttime onesie, a wearable blanket or a sleep sack, and a cool nursery, somewhere around 65°F and 70°F (18°C – 21°C) is the best way to ensure that baby remains comfortable through the night.
It’s likely that over the holidays, you deviated slightly (or not so slightly) from your normal routine. The number one way to get a formerly good sleeper back on track after any type of disruption is to return to “regularly scheduled programming”. A well-planned, consistent bedtime routine is conducive to a good night’s rest (no matter what your age). Once our bodies and brains start to recognize the signals that indicate an upcoming bedtime, we start physically and mentally relaxing. Energy levels wind down, melatonin production kicks in, and muscles start to loosen. By the time you’re giving your little one a goodnight kiss, their system should be all set for a long, restorative sleep.
With most things in life, it’s easy to fall into the trap of wishing things were different, but not actually taking the steps to make it so. If your little one is struggling in the sleep department, consider whether they are set up for success with consistent opportunities for daytime naps, predictable routines, an optimal sleep environment, and nighttime expectations they can rely on. Children learn what we teach them, so the ball is in our court.
But you don’t have to navigate the confusing world of baby sleep alone. There are resources, courses, and coaches out there to help you make sense of your child’s sleep habits and set you on a path to success. Sleep is too important to ignore, so if you have big things planned for the new year, let’s get you sleeping first!
Here’s to a DECADE of good sleep!
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