Sleep Deprivation: (noun) A form of psychological torture inflicted by depriving the victim of sleep.
Until I became a parent, I didn’t realize how much someone else’s sleep could influence mine! Getting young children to sleep is critical not only to their own health and happiness, but often to the overall health and sanity of their parents as well! Having a consistent bedtime routine helps, though that routine will contain different things for different families. Here are a few tricks that have helped us get just a bit more sleep around these parts.
The Bed Time Basket
Children love their “stuff”. As we would put our boys to bed, they would constantly call us back in for “just one more thing”. They desperately needed that blue truck, or that pirate Lego figure, or that random piece of paper that came with their Happy Meal toys. In addition to the fact that it seemed they had a knack for asking for the one toy we didn’t even know where to begin to look for, we found ourselves going in over and over to address these requests until our “serene” bed time routine turned into grumpy parents and crying children.
Enter the bed time basket. One night, I grabbed two small baskets and told the boys that these were their bed time baskets. If there was anything they wanted to have in their beds, they needed to have it in the basket before we went into their room to put on pajamas. Initially it was an event – 5-10 minutes to gather before bed time. Now, they often leave the same items in, changing periodically as they see fit. When, out of habit, they would call us in to ask for something else, we would simply reply, “You’ll have to remember to put that in your basket for tomorrow night.”
The Nightlight Timer
Have you ever felt like 10 or 20 bucks changed your life? I have! When I was pregnant with number 3, our second son developed a habit of waking with the sun – which meant about 5:30am. As inconvenient as it was to be up so early feeling nauseated and fatigued, I knew that being up this early after being up all night with a newborn would only be worse. Add to that the fact that sunrise was only getting earlier, and I was ready to lose my mind. That’s when the dear hubby and I came up with a solution. Home Depot has held the solution to many problems in our home, and this was another one.
We purchased an outlet timer like this one for less than $20. You can find one at any home improvement store. (I linked to Home Depot simply for illustrative purposes. Aside from the fact that our purchases have probably funded the pensions of at least 4 employees, Home Depot doesn’t even know I exist. So this is not an endorsement, and it makes no difference to me whether you buy one from them or from Mo’s Hardware down the street.)
We plugged in the timer along with our boys’ favorite nightlight and set the timer to go on at bed time and go off at a reasonable hour – for us, that was about 7am. We explained to the boys that as long as the nightlight was still on, it was still night time and they needed to stay in bed. If they felt they just couldn’t sleep any longer, they were welcome to play with the toys and books they had in their bed time baskets.
It only took a couple of mornings for them to get the hang of the new system. If they woke up early and were uncertain as to whether or not it was “morning” or “obscenely early morning”, they simply had to look at the nightlight. Sometimes I would hear them rustling around at 6:00 or so, and then fall back to sleep until after 7. It was a beautiful, beautiful thing. Then we had a newborn, and sleep deprivation began again. But that is a story for another time….
The solutions to bed time dilemmas are as diverse as the children and families who come up with them. So share yours here! What has smoothed out bedtime at your house? Maybe your solution will be the answer to someone else’s narcoleptic prayers.
Top photo by CPERONI.
Center photo by hoefi.