10 top tips for a good night’s sleep

Here are Heather Welford’s ideas for ensuring quiet nights with the over-4s.

  1. The great thing about older children is you can have a discussion with them! So explain just why everyone needs their sleep at night (so they’re not grumpy in the morning, to have nice dreams, to be cosy…whatever!).
  2. Get an evening routine sorted out, which rules out any high jinks or boisterous play in the hour or so before bedtime. Some children get very wound up, and find it genuinely hard to wind down again.
  3. A bath followed by a bedtime story can be soothing and calming and become a very important way of ‘switching off’ ready for the night.
  4. If you want to have your child settled in bed for the night, never let him come downstairs afterwards (except for very special occasions, or when he’s ill of course). It is not fair to sometimes let him come and sometimes get mad at him.
  5. Keep bedtime rituals short and sweet. Kissing every teddy and doll and face on a book cover and so on goodnight are delaying tactics. Don’t fall for them!
  6. If your child creeps into bed with you and you want to stop him doing so, take him back to bed every time, calmly and without a fuss….
  7. But if it’s okay with you, let him stay. Sometimes, this can be the best way of getting restful sleep, and there is nothing wrong with it.
  8. Leave a night light for your child; night time shadows can be frightening, and total darkness is very lonely.
  9. Early waker? A three-year-old can be taught the very basics of reading a clock, so he can’t come and get you up until the clock says the right time (you can draw a picture of what the clock face looks like at 7 or whatever, so he can see if the clock matches it).
  10. A cup of water by your child’s bedside can help him get back to sleep if he wakes, without disturbing you because he’s thirsty.


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