A good night’s sleep is about getting to sleep and staying asleep. Most children wake up by themselves if they’re getting enough good-quality sleep.
Most children fall asleep within 20 minutes of going to bed. How long it takes children to sleep can depend on how sleepy their bodies are and their daytime and bedtime routines. Bedtime routines help children wind down before bedtime to fall asleep more easily. We talked about the importance of bedtime routines here.
Children wake briefly during the night, but they might not be aware of being awake. To stay asleep, children need to be able to fall back to sleep by themselves after these brief waking episodes.
A bedtime routine includes everything you do with your baby or child just before you put them to bed, such as taking a bath, the last diaper change, putting on pajamas, and reading a bedtime story. Talking to their children about the day is also beneficial for some parents.
Children need experiences and relationships from birth that show them valued, capable human beings who bring pleasure to others. Positive attention, reactions, and responses from key grown-ups help children build a picture of how valued they are. Talking to your child about how their day went or simply about anything can make them feel this positive attention.
With positive attention comes a positive relationship. Positive relationships with parents and carers help children learn about the world – the child knows whether the world is safe and secure, whether they’re loved, who loves them, and much more. Also, your child’s feelings of security and safety can come from responsive interactions with you and other carers. If you smile at your child when they look at you or reassure your child when they’re frightened or uncertain, your child will feel safe and secure.
You can build a positive relationship with your child by being in the moment, spending quality time, and creating a caring environment of trust and respect. A perfect example of this is when you talk to them during bedtime.
With this practice, you also can listen to your child and tune in to your child’s real feelings. For example, if your child tells you a long story about many things that happened during the day, they might say they like the new teacher or are in a good mood.
When you ask how their day was or what made them feel happy or sad, they will feel loved and assured that the parent showed an interest in what happened that was significant in their lives. The child will then feel a stronger connection to the parent and can sleep better, feeling safe and loved.
Remember that this does not only give your child a good night’s sleep, but this being part of your bedtime routine can improve your relationship with your child by giving a strong sense of being secured and loved. This can also outweigh those occasional times when you feel frustrated or distracted or can’t give your child as much attention as you are.