These expert tips from Associate Professor Harriet Hiscock, paediatrician and sleep researcher, are great for managing common sleeping speed bumps or simply getting the family into the swing of a great night’s sleep. 

Golden rules for kids’ sleep

  • Establish a bedtime routine - so they know what to expect and have time to wind down.

  • Keep bedtime consistent (within 30 mins), even on the weekends - big variations can disrupt their body clock and undo all your good work.

  • Make sure they fall asleep in their bed - snoozing off on the couch or in front of the TV can affect their routine and make them less likely to want to sleep alone.

  • Remove all TVs, computers and mobile devices from their bedroom - the light stimulation alone will make it harder for them to settle down.

  • Avoid caffeinated foods and drinks after 3pm - caffeine is a stimulant which is likely to keep young bodies awake.

  • Have a wind-down period yourself - show kids that a bedtime routine is important for the whole family.

When your child won’t stay in bed

  • Limit the number of times they can come out of the bedroom (one or two times works well).

  • Reward them for complying with the rules (eg a stamp or sticker in the morning).

  • If they keep coming out, take them back to their room with minimal fuss or arguments.

When your child won’t fall asleep alone

  • Identify who (eg mum or dad) or what (eg music) they need in order to fall asleep and return to sleep if they wake in the night.

  • If it’s you, slowly withdraw from the bedroom in stages (also known as ‘camping out’).

  • If it’s something else (such as music), gradually reduce the amount of time the child spends with it before going to sleep.

Looking after yourself

  • Go to bed soon after your child - if your child wakes often in the night, you may be up again shortly after you turn in.

  • Follow good sleep hygiene rules - ie limit media use in the bedroom and have time to wind down.

  • Limit your consumption of caffeine and alcohol before bedtime - they can lead to poor sleep.

  • Do some stress-busting - try things like relaxation, yoga, and mindfulness meditation as often as you can.

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