For a young parent, raising a toddler can be the ultimate roadblock between you and your bed. But quality time in dreamland helps everyone, since tired kids equal cranky kids, and cranky kids mean exhausted (frustrated, impatient and cranky) mom and dad. Dr. Jennifer Carandang, an internal medicine and pediatrics physician at NorthShore Healthcare in Avon, offers some tips for parents to help everyone make it through the night.
Routine is key: One of the biggest helps for getting a toddler to sleep well is having a routine. “The same time every day they take a nap, the same time they go to bed, the same time they wake up,” Carandang says. But don’t stress if everyone needs some time to adjust. “Sometimes they take naps and sometimes they don’t.”
Fight back against nightmares: Some toddlers experience night terrors, which are like nightmares but much more dramatic and usually occur a few hours after they went to sleep. A child might sit up, scream, thrash around or cry. While it can be distressing for parents and children alike, be reassuring but not a softy. “Get them back to sleep in their own bed,” says Carandang. “Eventually it will pass.”
Encourage calm nights: To help kids fall asleep, Carandang asks parents to turn off the TV at least two hours before bed and decrease stimulation as much as possible. “Baths every night can help a child to calm down before bed or have the same drink before bed every night,” she says.
Take care of yourself: Don’t reach for the Starbucks when you’re in need of a boost. “Caffeine gives you a little bit of energy but then there’s a decrease in that as well,” says Carandang. Instead, she urges adults to get six to eight hours of sleep every night to keep them alert during the day.