Thursday, June 6, 2013

Sleep Schedules and Bedtime Routines~priddymomma

In a perfect world, our bedtime routine would work like this:

6:00 p.m. – Dinner
7:00 p.m. – Princess Cheerio gets a bath
                  Cheerio Champ reads quietly by himself
                  After bath routine for Princess Cheerio and story time with daddy
7:30 p.m. – Cuddle, rock, and read time for mommy and Princess Cheerio
                  Cheerio Champ gets a shower
                  Story time for Cheerio Champ
8:00 p.m. – Bed time
8:30 p.m. – Kids are asleep

Wake up time next morning:  8 a.m.
Princess Cheerio naps 1-2 hours during the day

The smoothness of our evening routine is extremely dependent upon the time we have dinner.  If dinner isn’t on until 6:30 or 7, obviously the kids aren’t going to be to bed on time.  That means that I need to be starting dinner at five o’clock sharp every day.  That realistically just doesn’t happen.  For instance, we hike at a local park three days a week.  We don’t usually leave the park until 5:30 or 6:00.  When they get to bed late, we let them sleep in the next morning.  I realize not everyone can do this, but we home school, so it works for us.

I have several pieces of advice for the moms and dads out there: 

  • You MUST have a schedule.  I don’t mean just a bedtime schedule.  I mean a set time to have meals and play time and naps and the whole nine yards.  Kids feel more secure when they know exactly what comes next, and you feel more sane when your kids know what is expected of them at any given time of the day. 

  • It’s okay to be off schedule sometimes.  Adjust as needed.  Life is more fun if you can be spontaneous sometimes.  (BABOON!  See?  Fun!)  Also, realize that as your child’s needs change, your schedule should change too.

  • Kids need to relax before bed.  I’m betting you don’t run around your house screaming and making fart sounds, jump in a quick shower, and then settle right down to fall asleep.  That is what a lot of parents are asking of their kiddos!  I like to get ready for bed, cuddle, talk quietly, and read a bit before bed.  That’s what my kids like too.  You can try doing other quiet activities if you prefer, such as putting together a puzzle, singing, or looking at a photo album.  I suggest you steer clear of media devices.  TV stimulates, and the blue light from other gadgets has been shown to dissolve sleepy feelings in loads of studies.  Baths are great for relaxing, but some kids get more excited when playing in the water.  If your child seems to be one of them, move the bath to the morning routine.

  • My son has to have a night light or have the bedroom door cracked open and the hall light on.  Kids like to wake up and see a familiar environment before settling back in for sleep. 

  • My daughter MUST have her taggie blankie before going to sleep.  It has to be the one I made her, mind.  The store bought one isn’t a good substitute, as I found out to my chagrin one day when it needed a wash.  Try letting your little one take a lovey to bed, and it can make all the difference.
Yep.  Taggie blankie.

  • For infants, some absolutely love being swaddled.  My son couldn’t sleep if he wasn’t swaddled or in the baby swing for quite some time.

  • DO NOT COMPROMISE ABOUT SLEEPING IN YOUR BED!  I know so many parents that have landed themselves in this trap.  They always say to me, “How on Earth did you get them to sleep in their own beds?!”  And I always say, “Because I didn’t let them think sleeping in mine was ever an option.  Period.”  I know there are families that practice bed sharing and all that, and I respect that, but I also think it is important for your kids to know that you deserve your own space as well.

  • Get in plenty of exercise during the day!  Remember up at the top where I mentioned we get the kids to bed late some nights because of hiking trips to the park?  That is a compromise we’re willing to make to ensure the health of our family unit.  Not only are we getting physical exercise, but we get a mental break each time we step into nature.  We communicate more effectively and stress a lot less.  The kids are better behaved the next day, and I have more patience to run off.  So what if it means getting the kids to bed a bit later?  The long term pros outweigh the cons.  And you can bet you never sleep as well as after a good sweat session.  Even Princess Cheerio sleeps better, though I’m not really sure why as she’s carried in a backpack carrier the entire time, but there you go!

No matter how good your little one sleeps, keep in mind that there will be times over the years that he or she won’t sleep worth beans.  There are many different causes, ranging from teething or illness to physical/cognitive leaps and bedroom temperatures not being quite perfect.  (Maybe even karmic payback for the hell you put your own mother through!  Who knows?)  On those occasions, good luck!  You’ll need a different post!  :D

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