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sleep tips for the whole family

Written exclusively for bümo by Natalie Willes (@babysleeptrainer)

"Sleep is not a luxury, it's a necessity.
And EVERYONE in your family needs it!"

Sleep is not a luxury, it’s a necessity. And EVERYONE in your family needs it! Trust me, after working with thousands of families around the world, a happy, present parent needs sleep to thrive. So, here are three sleep tips (you can try tonight!) to up your and your kiddos’ sleep game!

For adults

#1. ROUTINE, ROUTINE, ROUTINE! Our bodies, whether we’re 6 months old or 60 years old, need to wind down, and the best thing to cue our brain to start settling into sleep mode is a simple routine. Even more important than what we do during the routine, is when it happens. You thought bedtimes were just for kids? Think again. Try to spend 30 minutes at the end of each day without screens and prepping for bed. Turn off phones and TVs and spend your time brushing teeth, reading, or chatting with a partner. Avoid clean up activities and keep the lights low. Do this every day at the same time, and you may see a big difference in your sleep quality overnight.

#2. Learn to incorporate sleep-inducing elements into your bedroom. Consider sleeping with eye covers and add white noise or earplugs into our sleep routine. Blocking out light and sound can help you get to sleep faster, and stay deeply asleep longer. 

#3. Fight insomnia with deep breathing techniques. If you struggle to fall asleep, or often wake up and stay awake for lengthy periods overnight, test out a few breathing exercises to get to sleep. My favorite is closing my eyes, getting into a comfortable position, and inhaling to the count of five, and exhaling to the count of five. Aim to do this five times in a row without thinking about anything else but counting. If you catch your mind drifting to anything besides number, NBD…just start over. Concentrate hard on just counting, and before you know you’ll be snoozing away for the rest of the night.

For babies and infants

#1. Create a successful sleeping environment. Even the tiniest amount of light can inhibit a baby’s ability to sleep. Children should sleep in a very dark room with constant white noise. Empty cribs are a must for safety, and always aim for your little one to be dressed cooler rather than warmer. Since babies can’t always sweat or reliably cool themselves down, they’re more at risk of overheating. 

#2. Aim to start each day at the same time. Even if your little one is struggling to sleep in as late as you would like, keep their room dark and interactions minimal before your set start time of each day. When you want your day to begin, that’s when you should let in the sunlight and start their first feeding. Darkness can keep your child in a more restful state, even if they’re not totally asleep. This will also make it easier for them to “last” until their first scheduled nap time. 

#3. Once your child is 4-6 months or older, limit naps to no later than about 4 pm each day. Sleep after 4 pm can be treated by the brain as nighttime sleep, so a nap in the late afternoon can seriously disrupt a baby’s ability to sleep longer stretches overnight. 

 

For toddlers and kids

#1. Did you know exposing a toddler to light after they’ve been put to bed can stop their brain’s melatonin production for up to a half-hour (or longer)? Once your child is down for the night, make sure you limit their exposure to light as much as possible before the morning. Keeping lights dim or off outside their bedroom is key. If you worry about them leaving their room after they’ve been put to sleep, take steps to keep the house dark after bedtime so that they don’t walk from a dark bedroom in a brightly lit hallway.

#2. Try using a toddler clock to indicate to your child when it’s okay to begin their day. Explain bedtime that they are to stay in bed until the light turns on and indicates it’s morning. Many easier-going kids will choose to stay in their beds until the light turns on with a simple explanation of this boundary. 

#3. If your child is 2.5 years old or older, and struggling to fall asleep at bedtime, evaluate their nap lengths. Try shaving 15-30 minutes off the end of nap time each week, but keep their bedtime the same. Keep cutting until you hit 60-90 minutes total nap length and see if that results in your toddler falling asleep more quickly at bedtime.

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