Sleep is often one of those things that you don’t realize how much you need it until you aren’t getting enough of it.
And when you aren’t getting enough sleep it can be hard to be patient with your kids.
If you have a child who has difficulties falling asleep or staying asleep and you are exhausted and trying to get them to sleep/back to sleep . . . it can be a vicious cycle that no one wants to go through each night.
But, for whatever reason, some kids just have a harder time getting to bed than others.
One of my kids will be snoring within 5 minutes of the lights going off and the other one can lie in bed for hours.
There are a number of different reasons a child may be having troubles sleeping and figuring that out first is your best option, if you can get to the root of the issue it will be a lot easier to solve the problem. My daughter has often said she’s too anxious to sleep because she’s worried she won’t fall asleep . . . how do you break out of a cycle like that?!
I won’t pretend to be any kind of doctor or expert on this topic but I am a parent who has tried all the things over the years and wanted to share a few things that have worked for me.
Unfortunately there is no magic pill or answer here, some nights I tried all the things and nothing worked, sometimes I tried a combination and something worked but I don’t know what. I wanted to share the things that have worked the best over the years so you can try a few or a combination of a few and see if they work for your sleepless child.
8 Tips for Helping Your Child Fall Asleep & Easing Bedtime Anxiety
LET YOUR CHILD TALK BEFORE BED
I always try to allow enough time to let my verbal processor get everything out before going to bed. Sometimes this will take more than ten minutes but usually it’s under five. This has been a great way for her to get out any worries she has and other things on her mind.
STAY CALM AND REASSURING
This is one that I would say you need to do every single time. I know how hard this can be when you are exhausted and falling asleep on your feet and just want your child to get to bed. But I also know how much worse things can be if you snap and yell or do anything other than stay calm and reassuring.
Speaking in a gentle voice and letting them know that you will be near and they don’t need to be worried. I will often pray an extra prayer with my daughter on days she is especially struggling.
MAKE SURE YOUR CHILD’S ROOM ISN’T CAUSING ANXIETY
I’m not talking about the monsters in the closet or under the bed here, but rather, make sure it isn’t too chaotic, this will create an over stimulated child who will have troubles falling asleep.
If you have a pack rat of a child it’s best to do a clean out at least once a week as this can easily build up quickly (ask me how I know). My pack rat has given me permission to clean her room when she’s not there, which I know can sound like I’m doing all the work, but the truth is, it’s emotionally exhausting for her to go through each item in her room and right now my goal is to model a clean room to her so that over time she will strive for that.
A room with less going on will help put a potentially child at ease better and prepare them for falling asleep.
RUB YOUR CHILD’S BACK OR HEAD
My kids love this, rubbing their back or head helps them to calm down and relax, preparing their bodies for sleep. Sometimes I will quietly talk to them or sing to them while I do this but most of the time I’m quiet so they can fall asleep if they are at that point.
If you have a light sleeper a white noise machine or a simple fan can be a really good idea. They help drown out those little bumps and creaks that can wake a light sleeper up.
LET YOUR CHILD KNOW YOU WILL CHECK ON THEM
This goes against everything I remember Super Nanny telling parents but this works for my daughter. She likes to have the reassurance that I won’t go to sleep until she has fallen asleep so I check her every now and then to let her know I’m still around. Now, this works for my anxious child but if your child is having a different struggle when falling asleep it may not work for them. I generally check my daughter every 15-20 minutes, or at least I say I will, now it’s to the point that I only check her once and then she is asleep, but to get to this point I did need to check her 2-4 times for an extended period of time.
Even if you are skeptical about essential oils, this is worth trying to see if it works for your child. I think some things may work some times for some people. But I do think that putting some oils on your kids’ feet and wrists before bed can be a soothing process and I know every sleep deprived parent would take a placebo effect sleep over no sleep any day!
The sleepy essential oil recipe I use is as follows (Disclaimer: I haven’t checked the age suggestions on any of these oils, if that is a concern for you I would suggest you look it up before using it on your kids).
In a 10ml roller bottle add:
3 drops lavender
3 drops cedarwood
2 drops frankincense
2 drops ylang ylang
fill the rest of the bottle with your carrier oil (I use grapeseed oil or sweet almond oil)
TART CHERRY JUICE
Believe me, I know how crazy this one sounds but this is something I actually found to be very effective. The hardest part is finding the right kind of cherry juice.
So, tart cherry juice is apparently a source of melatonin and can help regulate the sleep-wake cycle. When I tried this with my daughter I thought it sounded bizarre but I was desperate to try anything. Imagine my shock when it seemed to actually work!
At the time I read a number of different articles on the topic and I ended up giving my daughter 1 tablespoon of the juice in the morning and one in the evening. The hardest part was getting her to drink the juice, she wasn’t a fan of the flavor and not many things covered the taste very well. For awhile I hid it in smoothies but she isn’t a big drinker to begin with so it was hard to get her to finish it.
We ended up only going through one bottle and then I couldn’t find the right brand and because it was a struggle to get her to drink it we ended up not continuing but this actually made a difference for her, she started sleeping longer than she had before. It’s been a few years since we tried it and thinking about it now makes me want to try it again.