Sleep Solutions for Older Kids
I’ll be honest with you, I was that somewhat smug mom whose babies slept through the night nearly immediately. I had this great “sleep solution” for babies, and by 12 weeks all of my kids were sleeping at least 12 hours every night.
I didn’t chalk it up to them being great sleepers. I chalked it up to me being a great mom.
I seriously thought that they were great sleepers because I was doing everything right.
I know – aren’t you so glad you didn’t know me back then?
Now that my kids are a little older, my nights of uninterrupted sleep are OVER. It’s as though I’m getting paid back for the last few years where I consistently logged 8 hours of uninterrupted sleep every single night – while my fellow mom friends ran around feeling exhausted.
Between sports schedules, life schedules, nightmares, bloody noses, freak thunderstorms, barking dogs and who knows what else, I’m lucky if I only have to wake up three times in a night.
And I have to say that none of the “sleep solutions” I used back when they were infants are very helpful these days.
When your kid is six years old and has “the worst nightmare they’ve ever had EVER” at 1 am, letting them “cry it out” for five minutes isn’t really an option.
And when your five year old comes running in with a bloody nose at 4 am, you can’t tell them to get back in their bed OR ELSE.
And don’t even get me started on the 3-year-old that comes into my bed every morning at 5am to suck his thumb and snuggle.
I mean – seriously – could you kick this kid out of your bed?
Now that we’re heading back to school, I can’t ignore the sleep problems in our house any longer. My kids need the best sleep possible in order to perform well at school, and I need as much sleep as possible in order to keep up with all of the school paperwork, homework help, getting lunches packed and keeping up with laundry (not to mention working!).
Luckily, there are quite a few things that I can be doing – and you can too.
Sleep Solutions for Older Kids
Keep a Journal
If your kids are waking up a lot at night, then keeping a journal could help you get to the bottom of the real problem.
Maybe they only wake up at night when they eat a bowl of cereal before bed. Or maybe those nightmares only happen when they watch television in the afternoon.
Keep a journal for two weeks to make note of what they eat, when they sleep and how many disruptions you can find. Click here to see the full list of everything you should be tracking.
The problem might be so obvious and simple that you’ll feel silly for not thinking of it sooner. (Like the fact that my 3-year-old sleeps a whole lot less at night when we let him take a 3-hour nap every afternoon. Duh…)
Routine, Routine, Routine
This seems to be one of the most important factors in determining how well my kids sleep at night – but it’s also one of the hardest things to do. Between after-school meetings, soccer practice – and the nights when we try to do something fun after homework and dinner – finding a consistent and appropriate bedtime routine is tough.
But it works.
Find a routine and a bedtime that works for you, and stick with it as often as you can.
Get Some Exercise
I sleep so much better after I exercise, and my kids do too.
Whether they’re getting it at gym class, at team practice, or you’re running them in the backyard after school, aim for 60 minutes of exercise per day to help them sleep better at night.
Limit TV and Texting
I used to think that letting my kids watch a show right before bed was a great way to help them relax and wind down. Now I’ve found that it actually takes them longer to fall asleep when we flip on the TV right before bed. (Thank you, sleep journal.)
And we’re not in this stage yet, but from what I’ve read, video games and texting are even worse. Limit the screen time for a better night’s sleep.
Watch What They Eat
It wasn’t until I was out of college that I finally figured out the relationship between food and how well I was sleeping. And I can see it in my own kids too.
As often as possible, reach for fruit and vegetables instead of processed foods. Try not to eat right before bedtime. And don’t give them caffeine.
Diet is an important part of healthy sleep habits, so click here to read more on this topic.
NEVER use Over the Counter Sleep Aids
I know how tempting it can be to give your kids cough or allergy medicine that they don’t need – in order to help them fall asleep faster and stay asleep longer.
Not only should these medicines be reserved for kids that are actually sick and need them, when used as sleep aids, they can cause drowsiness well into the next day – having a negative impact on their school and sports performance.
Save those over-the-counter medicines for when your kids really need them. And focus on some of these other tips to build a foundation for great sleep every night.
Want more Great Sleep Solutions for Older Kids?
OTCsafety.org has created this awesome infographic to help you get to the bottom of the sleep problems in your house.
As an OTC Safety ambassador, this is a sponsored post. All opinions are my own.