How to help your child sleep in their bedroom
If you’re worried about your child not sleeping in their own bed, you’re not alone – and not just because you’re sharing your bed with a little one. The good news is that there’s usually nothing to worry about. Studies show that up to 50% of children will experience sleep problems at some point, but they rarely persist.The bad news? It’s not going to be resolved in one night – it’s a process. Like every part of growing up, kids take their own time. All development curves are different. But as an understanding and supportive parent, you can help your child sleep in their bedroom – and help them feel more secure and confident in their own little environment.
Step one: create a happy, comfortable bedroom
Life’s busy. Before you know it, your kids’ bedrooms can become hectic and messy.
Toys strewn across the floor, clothes everywhere, half-eaten snacks on the windowsill... no shame – we’ve been there, too. Still, that doesn’t mean it’s the right environment for sleep.
Childhood bedrooms are places for play, creativity, excitement and imagination. But when the lights go out, children need to feel safe, comfortable and relaxed. Having toys tidied away and clothes in the right place can clear distractions and help sleep become the priority.
More than anything, a child’s bedroom needs to be a happy environment. A little piece of the world that they have ownership of.
Make it a place they want to be in; think about redecorating their bedroom and involve them in the decision-making. Let them choose a children’s bedroom theme or a favourite colour to include – something that makes it feel like it’s really theirs and not just another part of the home.
If your children share a bedroom, involve the whole family. Make it a collective space and give each child a say in how the room comes together. Let them agree on rules, alone time and off-limits areas. Help them find the middle ground – it’s amazing how diplomatic these little warriors can be when you give them a chance.
By attaching positive experiences to their bedroom, children will naturally want to spend more time in it. Be patient and do the groundwork, because loving a bedroom is the first step to sleeping in it.
Some people need total darkness and silence to fall asleep. But for many children, that can be scary. If you don’t feel safe, you don’t feel sleepy – and if you woke up in the middle of the night in a frightening place, you’d go looking for security.
If your child can express their fear of the dark, discuss it with them. Leave their door open a crack to let some light and comforting sounds in, or get a nightlight.
Talk about the things in their room that might scare them, to find ways to make their bedroom feel safe and secure.
Do they prefer having their back to a wall? Could you move their bed into a position that feels safer?
Sometimes, the tiniest detail can grow into a monster in their mind. Try to talk to them about it and find a way to make it feel safe once again.
A safe, happy bedroom will only feel sleepy if it's comfortable. And one of the biggest comfort factors for sleep is temperature.
Your first night at home with a baby was probably spent checking room thermometers and worrying about how many layers you should wrap them up in.
It’s a little bit counterintuitive, but as they grow up, most kids (and adults) actually find it easier to sleep if it’s cooler.
So, if you can, choose kids bedding made from 100% cotton. It’s breathable, wicking and super soft – making it just right for sleep.
And don’t forget about pyjamas. Character pyjamas are lots of fun, but they can get sticky and sweaty at night. Try to get cotton pyjamas for an easier bedtime.
Step two: set up routines and bedtimes
During the early parts of the coronavirus pandemic, children’s sleep was impacted severely.
Routines were upended, schools were closed, and families experienced a collective anxiety that troubled children as deeply as it did adults. And screen time rocketed, as 74% of parents reported that their children used electronic devices significantly more during lockdown.
If anything, that experience has cemented the importance of routine for children – especially when winding down for bed. The broader daily routines that children have can affect their natural rhythm and sleep cycle, too – mealtimes, playtime and TV time all play a role.
Try reducing tablet, phone or TV time by 15 minutes a day for a week, or until you hit an ideal for wind-down time.
An earlier evening meal can help regulate that all-important natural body clock. Eating before bed triggers hormones that make sleep more difficult so try making teatime a little bit earlier each day until you find a sweet spot.
Do baths, stories, choosing pyjamas and teddies to go to bed with – any activity that’s soft, quiet and relaxing.
Some wind-down and bedtime routines can take half an hour, some can be two hours long.
Neither is unusual. There’s no right or wrong way. Whatever works, works.
Step three: start the night right
If your child is new to sleeping in their own bedroom (or if you’re having another go at it), keep the rest of the routine exactly the same. Just try starting the night in their own room at first and see how they get on.
Some will sleep until morning (not ours, but we’ve heard the legends).
Most children will wake up at least once during the night. From here, they either settle themselves back to sleep, or look for a parent to soothe them.
Helping a child to self-settle rather than getting into bed with you can be difficult and emotional for everyone involved. Try to keep everything positive and reassuring – and most of all, be patient.
It’s easy to forget that just about everything in the word is new to this tiny little person, especially at 3am.
Remember that it will happen, eventually – but not if there’s pressure or shame attached. That goes for parent and child, so go easy on them and on yourself.
If your child does wake up in the night and comes to find you, try not to talk to them.
Just quietly take them straight back to their bed. It might not work the first time, or the second time.
Or the third.
And that’s okay. This is a process, not a one-time, quick fix.
Praising a good night can help reinforce the positives. Keep trying. Try new ways to find comfort, like teddies, and if you have to, change the routine incrementally rather than drastically.
Most kids will get there on their own, with nothing more than time and support. Just remember to try and keep it positive – in a happy, safe, sleepy bedroom.
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