It’s a common narrative: watching the clock as it mercilessly marches on, each passing second compounding your stress. The challenge? Getting your nearly-two-year-old to drift into dreamland. But with a pinch of science and a sprinkle of strategies, you can make bedtime more predictable and less of a nightly drama
How to Put a 3 Year Old to Sleep in 40 Seconds
I watched the numbers tick by on the clock, my stress growing with the time.
Every parent understands the rising frustration and stress as the clock ticks, signaling another minute that their child refuses to sleep. The anticipation of the nearly-two-year old’s eventual sleep turns into a battle against time, each moment growing more daunting. Seeing a child rolling and jabbering in their crib, resisting sleep, is enough to increase the heart rate of even the most patient parents.
With the crack of dawn acting as an impending deadline, every hour that goes by makes the child more prone to getting less sleep. This can translate into an inconsolable mood the next day. The toll of sleeplessness doesn’t just affect children; parents too bear the brunt, struggling with frustration and exhaustion. A sleep-deprived two-year-old child can be quite the handful, causing ripples of social-emotional problems in the household.
Reasons for a child’s resistance to sleep can vary. Perhaps their little imagination has them believing they’re a chef baking cookies, or maybe there’s a tangible culprit disrupting their sleep. Regardless, it’s vital for parents to troubleshoot, finding a consistent way to manage early bedtimes. Embracing the science of sleep and understanding various strategies can make bedtime a more predictable and less draining experience for both the child and the parent.
Cool the room.
As evening falls, our body naturally expects a cooler environment, mirroring the external cooling that occurs with the setting sun. This drop in core body temperature signals to the body that it’s time to wind down and rest. In our modern, insulated environments, we sometimes need to push a button to artificially cool the air to mimic this natural occurrence.
Maintaining a room temperature between 65-70 degrees can be the difference between a restless night and sound sleep for a child. Studies have highlighted the importance of ensuring 3-year-olds wear breathable fabrics or are tucked in a sleep sack. This allows their feet to be warm, yet lets the body’s core cool down, efficiently beckoning sleep. It’s a fine balance, ensuring the child doesn’t feel too cold or too warm, but just right.
Interestingly, a child’s feet play a significant role in their sleep quality. Keeping their feet toasty at bedtime can enhance sleep quality, further emphasizing the importance of the room’s temperature. So, while we might be tempted to create a snug environment, it’s beneficial to cool things down for the little ones.
Dim the lights.
The world naturally dims with the setting sun, casting a reddish hue that signals to many creatures, including humans, that it’s time to rest. This dimming cues the release of melatonin, the sleep hormone, orchestrating our internal rhythms much like an orchestra conductor manages the flow of music. Unfortunately, in our age of artificial lighting, these rhythms can easily get disrupted.
Bright lights, particularly those from artificial sources, can drastically alter the body’s internal sleep rhythms. Our homes, awash in artificial lighting that can exceed 200 lux, starkly contrasts the natural 3 lux setting that the setting sun provides. This can especially affect children, who, being more sensitive to light changes, might find it challenging to sleep in brighter environments.
Investing in smart lighting solutions that mimic the natural daylight cycle can be a game-changer. Products like Philips Hue or Lighting Science Good Night Light can be programmed to dim as bedtime approaches, simulating the calming effects of a natural sunset. This gentle reduction in lighting can ease children into a restful sleep, aligning their internal clocks with the world outside.
Turn off the screens.
In today’s digital age, screens have permeated every aspect of our lives. Televisions, tablets, computers, and phones illuminate our evenings, but these electronic devices might be doing more harm than good when it comes to our children’s sleep. The connection between screens and sleep disruption is well-documented, with the light from screens potentially delaying sleep onset.
A child’s mind is like a traffic light. When they watch their favorite show, it’s a green light for activity. As the evening progresses, it’s crucial to shift that light to yellow, signaling it’s time to slow down. Unfortunately, screens often keep it at green, preventing the natural wind-down process. This is further supported by studies from institutions like Penn State University, which found that children exposed to screens took longer to sleep than their peers who had tech-free evenings.
Creating a buffer period between screen time and bedtime can help children transition better. Turning off electronic devices at least an hour before bedtime allows their minds to shift from the stimulating green to the calming red, ensuring a smoother journey to dreamland.
Have a bedtime routine.
Consistency is key when it comes to children. Establishing a routine signals predictability, and this can be particularly beneficial during bedtime. The act of following a series of steps, whether it’s a warm bath, reading a book, or singing a lullaby, can help a child mentally prepare for sleep, letting them know that it’s time to wind down.
The difference between a chaotic bedtime and a calm one can be the introduction of a consistent bedtime routine. For toddlers aged between 8-18 months, this routine can dramatically improve their sleep patterns. A mere three nights of consistent bedtime rituals can resolve numerous sleep issues, emphasizing the power of predictability.
Children thrive on patterns. Knowing what comes next provides a sense of security, helping them relax. A routine, filled with calming activities, acts as a buffer against the uncertainties of the world, offering a comforting predictability that makes the transition to sleep less daunting.
Check your schedule.
Sleep isn’t just about the night; it’s interconnected with daytime activities, especially naps. The timing of these naps can significantly influence nighttime sleep. A well-structured nap schedule during the day can pave the way for a peaceful night. Keeping track of nap timings ensures that children aren’t too rested or too tired by bedtime.
By the age of 24 months, most children gravitate towards 12-hour nights. But this balance can easily be disrupted if naps aren’t timed correctly. For example, if a baby is on three naps a day, the last one should conclude by 5pm. As they transition to fewer naps, the timing changes, with two naps ending by 4pm and one nap by 3pm. These timings ensure that children have just the right amount of rest to carry them through the day without disrupting their nighttime sleep.
External factors, such as daycare or other preschooler activities, can often disrupt nap schedules. In such cases, even if the child doesn’t sleep, ensuring a quiet time can act as an effective alternative. This quiet time offers a break, allowing children to recharge, ensuring they don’t catch a “second wind” late in the evening, which can delay bedtime.
Boost your child’s sleep confidence.
The bond between a child and their parents is profound, often influencing the child’s sleep patterns. A toddler used to a parent nursing them to sleep can find it challenging to sleep independently. This intertwining of sleep and parental presence can make bedtime a challenge, with the child waking up in panic if they don’t sense their parent nearby.
Predictability and consistency, once again, come to the rescue. A predictable bedtime environment fosters trust. When a child knows what to expect, they can navigate the world of sleep with more confidence. This means that even if a parent isn’t immediately present, the child knows they’re safe, allowing them to drift back to sleep if they do wake up in the middle of the night.
Building a child’s sleep confidence doesn’t happen overnight. It’s a process that involves patience and understanding. By ensuring a consistent bedtime environment and offering reassurance when needed, parents can instill a sense of trust and confidence in their children. This trust empowers the child to sleep soundly, knowing they’re safe and loved