Getting a full night’s rest is vital to both mental and physical health because it is in the deeper stages of sleep that the body revitalizes and restores itself. During this stage, energy stores are rejuvenated and the immune system can be boosted.
In other words, sleep allows for healing, growing and developing. Sleeps rocks, and it is well worth it to teach your kid how to sleep, pronto!
How to Get Your Kid to Sleep and Why It’s Important
If sleep is so necessary, why can’t my little one do it?
The typical “bad sleeper” isn’t less in need of sleep or more prone to waking up, but they have learned to depend on outside assistance (a sleep prop) to get to sleep at bedtime and when they wake in the night.
Spoiler alert… No one really ever sleeps through the night, but that doesn’t mean that your 2-year-old needs to be waking YOU up every two hours. You can teach your kid how to sleep better, no matter how old they are!
Everybody, regardless of age, wakes up and falls back to sleep multiple times a night between sleep cycles. Any time you ever hear someone say “my baby sleeps through the night”, it’s a lie. Their kid certainly wakes up between sleep cycles, BUT unlike your little one, theirs can get back to sleep without help from mom, the boob, the pacifier or a ride in the car.
Once your little one has figured out how to get to sleep without assistance from outside sources, he will start stringing those sleep cycles together effortlessly; and that’s the secret to “sleeping through the night”, as most parents understand it.
So, though we can’t teach a child to never wake in the night, we can teach your kid how to sleep independently.
How can you teach your kid to sleep better?
The short answer here is that sleep is a skill which some little one possess really early and some take a little longer to learn. As a parent, you have the choice (and ability) to support your little one in learning the skill whenever you are ready!
Guess what?! Sleep is no different than #allthethings we teach our kids in that it is a learned skill. It is most definitely a basic need, and oftentimes it is one that they need to be coached into. So go forth and teach your kid how to sleep, mama!
Once you are motivated to dive in, follow these three tips to see success in getting your kid to sleep.
How to get your child to sleep
Don’t let them get overtired
The main culprit for night wakings is overtiredness. You might think that an exhausted kid is more likely to sack out for a full night than one who slept all day, but it’s actually just the opposite.
The reason we refer to it as being “overtired” is that the child has missed their sleepy phase and their bodies start to kick back into gear, which keeps them from falling and staying asleep and can result in hyperactivity or protest. If they miss their natural sleep cycle by as little as a half hour, their cortisol production can increase, which causes a surge in energy (“hyper activeness”) and things quickly spiral out of control.
A kid who has gotten a decent amount of sleep during the day (age appropriate, of course) is far less likely to miss the sleep window. It will be easiest to teach your kid how to sleep if they aren’t already overtired.
So, prioritize those naps or get your school-age child to bed early! Unless your little one is sleeping practically all day and up all night, you probably don’t need to concern yourself with the length of their naps.
One of the biggest mistakes parents makes surrounding sleep struggles is they keep their kids up too long during the day which can lead to overtiredness and overstimulation. Have you ever heard of the phrase “sleep begets sleep”? This is one way of saying, the more sleep we get, the better we sleep. And conversely, the less we are sleeping, the harder it is for us to sleep.
Be consistent when you teach your kid how to sleep
Whether you are sleep training on your own or hiring a consultant to work with, BE SURE THAT YOU ARE CONSISTENT. You owe it to yourself and your kiddo to send one clear message. When we get confused or waiver in our expectations, confusion results and protest increases!
It is most fair to your little one that you pick a plan/method/technique and stick to it. We all know that following a plan is tough, and this is especially true in the middle of the night. So, do your research beforehand and find something that will work for your family.
Hop on Pinterest, find a plan to teach your kid how to sleep and then be consistent in using that plan! The less confusion, the quicker the results.
Find an accountability buddy to help you
Next, get yourself a friend to help hold you accountable. Maybe you have a co-worker or neighbor who has successfully sleep trained, maybe your mom is willing to come over for a few nights to help you, maybe you and your partner can tag team the task, or maybe you need a support coach.
No matter who is helping you, remember that it is okay to ask for help. Taking on the task to teach your kid how to sleep independently is no small task. Habits are hard to break for both adults and children, but we know from other lifestyle changes that accountability is KEY!
For exhausted human beings (especially those in charge of tiny ones), it is incredibly difficult to make a plan, follow through on a plan, alter a plan when needed and see success from a plan, but with the tips listed above – YOU CAN DO IT! Before you know it, you will have an independent sleeper all because you put in the time and effort to teach your kid how to sleep!
About the author
Brittney Stefanic is a certified whole-family certified sleep consultant. She gets that this Modern Mom Life can be exhausting, especially if you have yet to teach your kid how to sleep. As an educator, she believes in the power of teaching and loves to support families in meeting their sleep goals through her customized sleep plans. You can follow her online, Pinterest, Instagram and Facebook @brittneystefanicsleep for access to her free sleep tips and tricks and other opportunities for sleep Q&A sessions.