Sleep issues have to be one of the more common problems parents will want to discuss when they come and see us at our clinic. They range from mild behavioural issues, to chronic (behavioural or medical) problems. We are lucky at NCCD to have two terrific paediatricians working with us (you can check them out here), so we often work together as a team if there are chronic sleep issues presenting. For us psychologists, our usual treatment starts with some simple behavioural modification steps, and here our our top 5 tips (there are many more, but this is a good start!):
- Get a night time routine sorted ASAP. If you need to know why, check out my post here. But generally the routine should involve sleep inducing, predictable activities in the lead up to bed (shower/bath, brush teeth, PJs on, story, light out).
- Stop screen time a couple of hours before bed time.
- If your kiddo is a bit anxious, make a time earlier in the day to talk about their worries, not right as they’re getting into bed – or at any point during the home-stretch to bed! If your child starts to raise something at this point, you can thank them for telling you and explain that you’ll chat to them about it in the morning.
- Calm down the house prior to bed. You can dim the lights, put on calming music and generally be calm yourself.
- Set clear behavioural expectations that can be reinforced in the morning. For instance, for children that procrastinate about going to sleep, set an expectation that if they go straight to sleep then they can have TV or a special breakfast etc. in the morning. And conversely, if they play up at night time, there is no TV (or whichever reward you’ve offered) the next day. Choose motivators that work for you/your family. And ensure you follow through the next day. Remember, this is not bribery – bribery is offering a reward for a behaviour to STOP once it has already started, and is never going to end in behaviour change.
I’d love to know if you’ve tried any of these tips, and how they worked for you. Often it’s trial and error with behaviour change!
Photo credit: Photo by Iana Dmytrenko on Unsplash