When you look closely at your family schedule, you may find it challenging to find 14 hours a day for your child to sleep. Finding time for your little one to sleep, however, is crucially important. Try to plan for 80% of their sleep to be at home. If you have multiple children, this may become even harder but plan ahead. You can do your best to synchronize multiple children’s nap times. Take a broad look at the set things in your schedule like work hours, standing appointments, weekend commitments, and things that aren’t flexible. Then work to prioritize night time sleep and naps. Remember as we propose on our main sleep page, section society often has a negative view of sleep. If you are not prioritizing your healthy sleep because you're over-scheduled and overstimulated at night, your children are likely to have the same challenge.
Set a Bedtime
Once your family schedule is clear, you can set a bedtime. Most often infants and toddlers go to sleep for the night between six and eight pm. As your child’s habits begin to develop you may want to adjust that schedule 15 minutes earlier or later to try to help match your child’s natural clock. The more consistency the better when it comes to bedtime. Research shows a lack of a consistent bedtime is related to behavior problems.
Plan Your Routine
We recommend planning a quick and simple bedtime routine that will help your child calm down from their play and communicate it is time to sleep. From the moment you begin the routine, try to keep your voice calm and quiet. Your routine should be about 5-15 minutes in length. A 5 minute nap time routine should be derived from the slightly longer bedtime routine. In your routine you can include stretching, breathing, putting on lotion, picking out pjs, reading one story, saying goodnight to special objects or people, singing a song, goodnight kisses or hugs, and other calming and connecting activities. Routines get added over time so keep it simple to start.
Try to Prevent Your Child From Becoming Overtired
When young children are tired but the environment is too stimulating for sleep, they learn to keep themselves awake rather than listening to their body’s signals that they are tired. This is like an adult who is working to keep themselves awake to drive at night. When finally settling down to bed you feel wired. When children get overtired they work to keep themselves awake. Then when they try to sleep they are unable to settle. The best thing to do is prevent your child from becoming overtired. If your child becomes overtired try to offer a little more flexibility and empathy until they get back to their normal schedule.
One mom’s example of a bedtime routine for her one year old (10 minutes): You pick pj's, I sing 'Twinkle, Twinkle' as I help you into your pj's, you cuddle into my lap for a short story, we do three deep sleepy yawn breaths, a tight hug and quiet I love you, then I leave the room. Naptime: you cuddle into my lap for a short story, we do one deep sleepy yawn breath, a tight hug and a quiet I love you, then I leave the room.