Forming good sleep habits early on in life is vital. Here, are a few tips from Sarah Helm.
- Avoiding late-in-the-day foods or drinks that have sugar and/or caffeine
- Not providing attention if the child does awake from bed, and then quietly putting him or her back
- Using a high quality, digital noisemaker that makes “white noise”
- Keeping the bedroom at a cooler temperature
- Eliminating the availability of fun toys.
Next, create a schedule prior to bedtime that goes from more active to less active, more fun to less fun, and lighter to less light.
For example, activities involving screens (iPad, TV) should be earliest on the schedule and should end an hour before bedtime. Children can do their evening/bedtime chores as the light fades (putting away toys, getting into PJs, brushing teeth). Reading a book in bed or engaging in some other passive activity (fun, but not too stimulating) is great for winding down at the very end of the night.
Your son or daughter should be able to fall asleep by himself or herself, so don’t stay in the bedroom and wait for him or her to fall asleep.
If your child is still waking and getting up in the night, you have a number of options. One is offering a “bedtime pass” that can be used once per night for something within reason (a glass of milk, a hug), or can be turned in the next morning for something better (a favorite breakfast, a special activity, etc.). You can also conduct periodic check-ins and fade those out (check in one minute after bedtime, two minutes later, four minutes after that, etc., until your child is asleep).
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Sarah Helm, BCBA, can be contacted at email@example.com.