Recently a study was conducted comparing preschoolers sleep with their behavior later in their lives. It was found that by age 7, preschoolers who get too little sleep had markedly decreased mental and emotional functioning. See more information about this study here. Because of this, I decided to write this blog post with my top tips for helping preschoolers get better sleep. If you read other of my posts, many of these tips will sound familiar, since many of these tips also relate to other aged children and adults as well.
Do Not Rush To Take Away Naps
Many 3 year olds are still taking naps, and some 4 and even 5 year olds are as well. I am usually not in a hurry to take the nap away. If your child is still willingly falling asleep at naptime and still falling asleep at a reasonable hour for bed, I would let them continue napping. If you do need to stop them from napping (for example if they are starting kindergarten), you will probably need to make bedtime earlier to account for the difference in amount of sleep they are getting. If your child is no longer napping, I do recommend continuing quiet time, which you can learn more about here.
Make Sure Bedtime is Not Too Late
Children aged 3 – 5 years still need, on average, 11 to 12 hours of sleep each day. If they are no longer napping, all that sleep should be occurring at night. Therefore, if your child wakes around 7, they should be asleep no later than 7 or 8. It also may sound strange, but a 3 year old who is napping, may actually have a later bedtime than a 4 or 5 year old who are not napping. If bedtime is too late, children are more likely to be overtired and overtired normally sleep badly. Children who are still napping should only be awake for between 4 and 5 hours between when they wake from their nap and when they are asleep at night.
Tame the Stalling Monster
Preschoolers are great at stalling at bedtime, naptime, and just about any other time of the day when they are asked to do something they may not want to do. The first step to working on this is to make the bedtime routine relaxing, calm, and a little bit fun. We do want bedtime to be a positive experience, never a punishment, so we want to make sure your child enjoys at least a part of it. If your child is not into books, maybe a family sing a long would be a better idea? Maybe your child can color or do puzzles instead of reading? I do love having reading as part of the bedtime routine because it helps with literacy, but if your child really does not enjoy it, you can always read at another time of the day. Kids love choices, so make sure they have some say in some parts of before bed activities. Give them some choices, but not an infinite amount. So give them 3 pairs of pajamas they can choose from, or pick out 5 or 6 books that they can choose 3 out of. Also, try to plan for whatever your child may ask for. Do they ask for water at bedtime or in the middle of the night? Fill up a water bottle for them before bed, but tell them in advance if they will be allowed to fill it up again. And stick to what you say! Some children do well with some sort of chart or book that shows them the steps in their bedtime routine.
Do you have some great tips for helping preschoolers sleep? Feel free to share them below!