Lisa Gargaro Sleep Co Blog – How can I teach my child to sleep alone?

Lisa Gargaro talks us through 3 methods of how we can I teach my child to sleep alone.

There can be a bit of a challenging to get your child who is beyond the infant stage to fall asleep all by themselves. The good news is that this is a skill that can be taught to every child. For them to learn how to self-soothe to allow them to fall asleep by themselves,” says Lisa Gargaro Sleep Consultant at Sleep Co. To help you learn more about some of the different ways you can help them to learn to start to snooze solo see the examples below. Have a read and choose one that works – consider your lifestyle and your child’s nature to ensure you pick one that will work best.

The hard-line strategy:

This is as it says. You simply put your child in bed once they have done their bedtime routine. Say good night and leave. You then do your best to ignore their protests. Returning them to their bed/room when they come out to protest. As they always do. Simply telling them, “You need to stay in bed.” Some experts may also suggest putting a gate up at the door so there is no escape. This style and technique of sleep training can be extremely tough on both the parent and the child. That said it often works very well and quickly for the family. There are usually a lot of tears involved with this method.

The graduated method:

To start this method, you put your child to bed as normal with the bedtime routine done and settle them into bed. You then tell them that you need to pop out the room to check something and that you’ll be back in five minutes to check on them. The important point in this is that you always do just tha. You go back and check on them, showing that you will always follow through with what you have promise. Continue to keep checking on him. Gradually being to be waiting longer periods and intervals of time successfully before you will go back into check on them. The point of this method is your child will eventually get bored waiting on you to return. And will fall asleep while you are out of the room. As you can understand why this method is the one which most parents choose.

The gentle approach:

Simple and easy. You begin by sitting on a chair beside their bed. Staying in the child’s room with them. You only sit with them. Do not be tempted to lie in their bed or have any sort of interact with them wherever possible. You only respond 3 times by saying your key phrase – night night/bedtime or whatever it is.  As the nights progress you move the chair further away from the bed. Most parents have found that by the time they have reached their way out the room their child has learnt how to fall asleep independently. This require a lot of patience and can involve a lot of sitting waiting on your child to sleep. There are little to no tears usually involved in this method as you are there to reassure them throughout.

How Much Sleep Do Children Need?

As we know children’s needs vary. There are however some general guidelines from the National Sleep Foundation. These help to give you a better understanding and idea of how many hours a day your child needs to be sleeping (including naps).

Infants (up to 11 months): 14 to 15 hours

Toddlers: 12 to 14 hours

Preschoolers: 11 to 13 hours

School-age children: 10 to 11 hours

What Habits Can Affect Kids’ Sleep?

To ensure you give your child the best chance of succeeding at learning sleep there are a few simple No No’s you should be implementing to help your child sleep better:

There should be NO Watching TV, playing video games, or using the computer for at less than 30 minutes before bedtime. Ideally stopping one hour before would be even better.

Excessive roughhousing –

Make sure they do not eat large meals at least 2 hours before bedtime. Snacking on certain food before can be helpful. Banana & yoghurt is a great example. Ensuring you do not send them to bed hungry either.

Avoid consuming or snacking on foods or drink which contain caffeine.

What Are the Benefits of Bedtime Routines?

I know sometime the bedtime regimen can feel and resemble the movie 50 First Dates, but I can promise you all the repetition that is involved is utterly worth it. “Night-time routine not only help children transition to a more relaxed bedtime mind-set. It also allows kids to know and understand what to expect. Helping them feel in control,” says Lisa Gargaro Sleep Consultant and child psychologist.

“Without the routine, children can find themselves having a hard time getting and falling asleep. Meaning they are more likely to have moments of acting out.” Simply create a routine which will work well for your family. Even if that would mean you start this an hour before bedtime, that is OK.

It is much better to make sure you allow enough time for each task, there is nothing worse than rushing through the process. It will only make it much more stressful for everyone. To help you get inspired and allow you to create your own routine.

A sample routine.

1. Clean up toys or do a quiet activity together such as a simple puzzle.

2. Have a warm bath.

3. Get into pjs.

4. Cleaning teeth.

5. Take a small cup of water to have on their bedside – this is to avoid the “I’m thirsty” line they will try and use as the excuse for getting out of bed.

6. Ensure all lighting in the bedroom is DIM. Low watt bulbs and ensure no power lights are shining once lights off. It is darkness which triggers us to produce melatonin – the essential sleep-inducing hormone need to allow sleep to occur.

7. Read a book. Helpful tip – explain ahead of the time exactly how many books you will read. Allow them to select them from a pile you have already preselected. i.e., “ I will read two short books, which 2 would you like from this pile?,” as if they get free rein, I can guarantee it will be the thickest novel they will pick given the chance- in that case – state the number of pages you’ll read – making no room for stalling bedtime.

8. Bedtime can be a great time to talk quietly together. You need to watch the time and make sure it is no more than five minutes. It can be a wonderful way for your child to settle down and clear their mind – it always allows them to share their thought and feeling of the day. A lot of children use this time to inform parents of issues, concern or worries they might have. Let them speak it will help to settle them down. Suggestion idea: Discuss the high point and low point of the day. Please be careful not to get side-tracked by discussing that big topic. If they do, you can always tell them “We’ll talk about it in the morning.” Just remember to make sure you do so by following it through.

9. Say good night to any favourite stuffed animals also 😉

10. Always end the day on a positive note. Most favourable way is to sing a favourite lullaby and give them a kiss.

Can Sleep really impact and affect Success at School?

There are also boundaries beyond causing a meltdown for your child with the lack of sleep. By scrimping on sleep, it can also cause the start of trouble for your child at school. In a study of elementary-school students, it showed that by missing just one hour of sleep at night can make a huge impact on your child’s academic performance. It affects their ability to concentrate in class. In fact, it can put them on a par with a student two years younger than them.

Other research also has found that even a one-hour deficit in the 3-and-under crowd can have lasting effects, including causing behavioural and cognitive problems when kids start elementary school years later. I asked Dr. Owens to describe some ways that a zzz’s deficiency can get in the way of preschool success.

Attention problems. A child may have difficulty listening to detailed instructions or focusing on planned activities.

Inability to verbalize imaginative/creative thoughts. She may go blank when asked to come up with a story or describe a painting she made earlier in the day.

Dulled memory. What colour was that again? What are the words to the song we just learned?

Hyperactive behaviour. A child who can’t sit still will have a tough time learning.

All of these above-mentioned behaviours will have an impact on your child and their learning. So, to ensure they have the best chance to be and do their best each day lets start them on the right footing by ensuring great sleep.

If you wish to discuss your own child sleep situation with me, I offer free a no-obligation 15 min sleep introductory call where we can chat about how I could help your family sleep better