Why won’t my child sleep? – 5 tips to help you win bedtime battles
Losing the bedtime battle (and your mind too) and can’t work out why your child won’t sleep? Keep calm and read on – we’ve been there, and we have solutions!
Brand new parent: Once you get through the infant stage, with the regular night feeds and nappy changes, it’s all smooth sailing when it comes to sleep, right?
Slightly less new parent: Ha!
Can we please normalise the fact that children, even up to the point where they start creeping into the double digits, can find it hard to settle down for sleep? Bedtime battles are most definitely a thing, but they don’t mean you’re a bad parent, or that you’re failing in any way. Seriously. All they mean is you’re human, and you have a human child.
Bedtime battles aren’t fun, but they are normal. So’s the exhaustion you’re feeling and the niggly doubts about what you’re doing (or not doing) and your parenting abilities. Believe me, we (the Muluzu family) have been there. Oh lordy, have we been there. But now that we’ve come out the other side, we want to share what we’ve learned so you can come out the other side too. Because honestly, it’s lovely here. There are cookies and everything.
There are many different reasons why your child might be struggling to self-settle. Let’s dive in, start looking at the solutions to some common bedtime battle problems, and see if we can help you and your household rest a little easier.
5 tips to help you win bedtime battles
1. Make sure your kiddo’s getting the right amount of sleep
As kids grow their need for sleep changes. At 2 years of age your little one will need around 11-14 hours, including naps. From 3-5 years that shifts to 10-13 hours, including naps. Once your child is around 6 years old, through to about age 12, they’ll need around 9-12 hours of sleep.
While every kid is different and these times are just a guide, perhaps try adjusting your child’s routine if they’re getting significantly less or more sleep than this. That might be the source of your bedtime battles.
2. Does your child have any bedtime fears?
Ghosts. Monsters. Scary things that go bump in the night.
Bedtime fears are real, so don’t dismiss them. Give your child a chance to express their fears by talking with them about what’s worrying them. Then, come up with some tools for making sure these bedtime boggarts keep their distance and behave. You could:
- Put some water and lavender oil in a spray bottle with a “Monster Be Gone!” label stuck on it. Voila! You now have monster spray that is proven to keep scary creatures away and calm your child at the same time. Spray it around your kiddo’s bed each night at bedtime.
- Assign guard duty to a brave toy. While on duty, they’ll keep an eye on your child throughout the night and make sure they’re safe and protected. Our Pillowcase Pals come with a snuggle toy that, if not required for snuggling duty, is most certainly up to the task.
- If the monsters they’re scared of come in dream form, hang a dream catcher above your child’s bed. Dream catchers let the good dreams through but ensnare the bad ones, promising your kiddo a blissful night’s sleep.
3. Is your child’s bedroom distracting them?
Having too many toys or too much light in your child’s bedroom can make it harder for them to self-settle. Screens in the bedroom or noise coming in from other areas of the house or out on the street might also be impacting on your little one’s ability to fall asleep.
To create a sleep-inducing environment for your child in their bedroom:
- remove any screens.
- make sure it’s as dark as possible. Anything brighter than a night light will make it harder for your kiddo to switch off and rest.
- keep toys to a minimum.
- if noise filters in from the house or street when your child is trying to sleep, introducing white noise can help.
4. Could stress be playing a part?
Cortisol is our body’s stress hormone, and when it’s going off, it’s like having an in-built alarm that just won’t quit. Children can experience stress just like adults. There may be issues at school, a war raging between them and a sibling, friend, or toy, or any number of other triggers causing your child’s cortisol levels to rise. When it comes to bedtime, there are a couple of things you can do.
Make sure their bedroom is comfortable and calming. Set the temperature to around 18-20oC, introduce white noise if outside noise is an issue, and make sure their bed is made with nice, soft sheets and pillow cases. Our Pillowcase Pals are soothingly soft and silky, with plush ears perfect for stroking and calming.
You can help your child relax further with some breathing exercises. Try simple, deep breaths for little ones, or for older kids, encourage them to breathe in through the nose, hold their breath, and breathe out through their mouth for 4 counts at each stage.
Our Pillowcase Pals come with a set of Encouragement Cards that you can either read aloud to your child or have them to read before bed. Our Encouragement Cards reaffirm positive thoughts about bedtime, and will help your kiddo feel calmer and more at ease.
5. They have separation anxiety or are using you as a sleep aide
Some kids experience real anxiety when it comes to going to sleep on their own. They always want a parent to be present and go to great lengths to let you (and the rest of the household) know about it if you’re not. It’s important for kids to learn how to self-soothe and fall asleep on their own.
To help them on this journey, try introducing a special bedtime object. A blankie, a special stuffed animal, or a loving Pillowcase Pal could keep your child company at night and help make bedtime more alluring for them.
A calming and consistent bedtime routine will also help. Whatever works best for your child will be best, but it could look something like this:
- bedtime story
- cuddle up with a special snuggle toy while a meditation plays.
Giving your child the ability to explore and use their senses for reassurance when the lights go out may also help. Our Pillowcase Pals are wonderful at easing anxiety surrounding the perceived unknown at bedtime because—with their plush ears and silky-soft fabric—they anchor your little one by offering the same sensory features at night that they feel during the day. An added bonus? Unlike a toy, a Pillowcase Pal isn’t easy to lose during the night!
A bonus tip to help you out!
What about you?
The whole reason Pillowcase Pals exists is because the youngest member of our family, Kyle, was inspired by the stress his own bedtime caused when he was younger. He reflected on what helped him to self-soothe and fall asleep, and together with his sister Samara, came up with our first three Pals.
Have a think about when you were your child’s age. The same things that kept you up as a kiddo might be keeping your little one up.
Do you have any other tips? We’d love to hear them so we can share them with other families struggling with bedtime battles!
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