It’s no easy to task to deal with an overtired preschooler. They’re irritable, grumpy, and contrary. Actually, they’re a lot like adults when they’re overtired but without the benefit of adult reasoning and emotional control. So what can you do to help—quite a lot. Sleep patterns are highly responsive to habits and behaviors, and you can create the structure in your child’s life that will help her get better sleep.
The average three to five-year-old should sleep roughly 10 to 13 hours every day. Some younger children may still need an afternoon nap, but by the time your child hits age five, she’s going to get all her sleep at night. Here are a few ideas to help her get a full night’s sleep and ease any bedtime battles.
Develop a Quiet Bedtime Routine
When activities are performed in the same order every day, it helps your child recognize “what comes next.” Start with the most active part of the routine like picking up toys then move to putting on pajamas and brushing teeth. End with the quietest parts of the routine like reading a book together or singing quiet songs. Some parents like to play the same music track while their child gets ready for bed as the transition between songs can help signal when to move to the next task.
These are only examples. You can put anything in the routine as long as it helps your child calm down and relax before bed. Just be sure to keep everything in the same order.
Physical and Emotional Comfort
Let’s start with physical comfort. A misplaced tag, sticker, lump, or valley on a mattress can be enough to disrupt a preschooler, and she might not even realize that’s why she can’t fall asleep. You can find reasonably priced mattresses that provide excellent support no matter the sleeper’s size.
You might also want to check the zippers, buttons, snaps, and seams on her pajamas. Some children are particularly sensitive to anything against the skin.
Then, of course, there’s emotional comfort. While some children are leaving separation anxiety behind others may struggle with it for several more years. A comfort item like a stuffed animal or blanket can work wonders for building your child’s sleep independence.
Set a Bedtime That’s Always the Same
The human body relies on routine and none more so than that of a child. Circadian rhythms, biological processes that run on 24-hour patterns, control the sleep cycle but a child’s rhythms aren’t as regular as an adult’s. Not yet, anyway.
Keeping a consistent bedtime helps your child’s brain learn when to start the sleep cycle. The more consistent you are, the better off your child will be. Try to keep the same bedtime on weekends, too, so your child doesn’t have a hard time adjusting on Monday morning.
Put Your Child to Sleep in Her Own Bed
Co-sleeping often starts with breastfeeding when it’s easy to fall asleep with your baby in bed. However, as your child gets older, co-sleeping poses future sleep problems for you and your child. The sooner your child moves to her own bed the better. It comes down the fact that another body in the bed causes sleep disruptions, not to mention how it can affect your relationship with your partner.
By the time your child hits preschool, she’s ready for her own space and will sleep better and longer if she’s not running into other people at night.
Better sleep will not only help your child learn emotional control but help them build good sleep habits for the future. It can take time for new habits to develop so be patient and consistent. The more consistent you are the sooner your child will adjust and get the sleep she needs.