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Bedtime strategies that actually work on kids

By Nikolina Koevska Kharoufeh |

Bedtime with a toddler or a young child can be stressful when kids refused to settle, and do whatever they can to avoid hitting the sack.

Though all experts agree that good quality sleep is a necessity for young kids and has a direct impact on their development.

"Sleep directly impacts how we feel, act, perform, and can have a major impact on our quality of life," Sleep Wellness Manager Rachel Beard tells 9Honey Parenting.

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Cute little toddler girl sleeping in big bed of parents. Adorable baby child dreaming in hotel bed on family vacations or at home
Toddlers can start to make bedtime tricky as they grow out of the need for a day sleep. (Getty Images/iStockphoto)

So what do you do when your child's bedtime routine just isn't working - and getting them to bed each night feels like an impossible task?

We spoke to ?Rachel Beard and A.H. Beard's Sleep Wellness Centre resident sleep expert, Dr Carmel Harrington, gathering tips on tackling this troubling problem.

"For kids, sleep is particularly important for giving growing bodies and brains the energy they need for both physical and mental development," Beard reveals.

"And it also helps keep family time happy rather than tired and cranky."

The experts sharing the bedtime strategies they believe are proven to help babies, toddlers and young kids develop healthy sleeping habits.

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Consistent bedtime

When it comes to keeping bedtime consistent, Beard understands it can be hard while balancing a busy family schedule.

"?Sudden changes to your child's sleep routine will have a similar impact to jet-lag. Late nights on weekends, school holidays..." she explains.

So while it is hard to avoid changes here and there, it's important to keep a consistent bedtime the majority of nights.

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Adorable baby sleeping in blue bassinet with canopy at night. Little boy in pajamas taking a nap in dark room with crib, lamp and toy bear. Bed time for kids. Bedroom and nursery interior.
Songs that put babies to sleep

And one way to figure out what bedtime works for your child is by working backwards.

"Just like going to bed at a regular time is important, so is waking up at a regular time. Find a time that works for the whole family and then create household routines around it," Beard says.

To help calculate this, experts recommend eight-10 hours of sleep for teens and 10-11 hours of sleep for primary school aged children.?

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Wind down in a dark and quiet room

Getting kids prepared for bedtime involves bringing their energy levels down.

While that can be hard, it's important for them to be able to wind down from the day and come to terms with the fact bedtime is around the corner.

"The sooner children realise that this time of the day is for winding down and for preparing for sleep the sooner they will experience better, consolidated sleep," Harrington explains.

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Two ways parents and carers can do this is by turning down the lights across the house, and keeping things quiet. ?

That way when it's time for them to wake up in the morning, they are able to associate this with the introduction of sunshine. ?

"Exposure to sunlight first thing in the morning helps regulate melatonin (the sleepy hormone) and regulate our body clock," Beard tells 9Honey Parenting.

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Keep toys and screens away

It's something we try to do as adults and struggle with, but keeping screens away from our kids in the lead up to bedtime is crucial.

"?The blue light from phone screens, TVs and iPads have all been proven to suppress melatonin, making it harder to fall asleep," Beard explains.

Instead of screen time, there are other things you can do with the kids to ensure they aren't overstimulated during the wind down period.

Two kids, a boy and a girl are jumping on the bed.
We tend to look at bedwetting as something that children will simply 'grow out of' (Getty)

"This can include a bedtime story for the younger ones, a warm bath, or even a chat to debrief on the day's events."?

Another tip is removing any toys lying around the living room or their bedroom, which will tempt them to get energised and excited again. ?

"Toys are great for learning, fun and enrichment but can get in the way of bedtime.?"

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Toddler wrapped in blanket playing on iPad.
Guidelines state kids under two years of age shouldn't receive any screen time. (iStock)

A full and satisfied tummy

It may not seem like it, but what kids do during the day can have a significant impact on their sleep that night, and across the week.

?Something Dr Harrington recommends parents focus in on when it comes to improving their kids' sleep is their meals.

"Heavy meals too close to bedtime may keep them awake, but equally going to bed hungry can impact their sleep," he explains.

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The sleep expert suggests giving young children a light snack like warm milk or a banana before bedtime.

"Avoid sugary or caffeinated snacks like chocolate and soft drinks after lunchtime."

And ensure you brush their teeth before putting them to sleep. ?

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Late afternoon run-around

Much like what they eat, what your kids do in the lead up to the night also has an impact on how bedtime can play out. ?

"Spending time outdoors exercising and being exposed to sunlight is equally as important so make sure to factor some outdoors time every day," Dr Harrington recommends.

Not only does outdoor exercise help burn energy and get them tired enough to sleep, but it's also a great way to get kids off their screens. ?

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