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How to make children sleep on their own

Bedtime can be a challenging hurdle for first-time parents to overcome.

Whether it’s dealing with a child who refuses to go to sleep or putting an overactive toddler back to bed after they’ve woken up for the third time, this is an important phase of your child’s life – and one that we’re here to help you improve!

These are a few ways you can ensure your child – and you – have a good night’s sleep, every night.

Give your child lots of encouragement for sleeping by themselves

Going to bed alone is a big step for any child, and at the beginning, your child may cry and hope to get their way. Be gentle but firm when explaining that big boys/girls go to bed by themselves – and help your child to feel proud that they’re being trusted to sleep alone.

The next morning, remember to encourage your child for sleeping on their own! Give them a big hug, lots of praises or a hearty breakfast – whatever they feel most encouraged and rewarded by. Stay committed to this cycle of “being gentle but firm at night” and “encouraging and rewarding in the morning” until this behaviour is conditioned, and your child feels comfortable and confident in sleeping without you in the room!

Implement a “no screens before bedtime” policy at home

Studies have shown a correlation between children’s use of digital screens and later bedtimes – and this shouldn’t surprise anyone, as most parents already know how blue light makes us feel more awake (even when it’s past our bedtime).

This is an important habit to break, as studies also show that when children have difficulties falling asleep on their own, they tend to be more dependent on their parents being next to them.

Here’s something that you may not know – children have larger pupils than adults, so melatonin is suppressed twice as much as in children, as it is in adults. To avoid this happening, we recommend creating “screen-free zones” for your child to play and rest in after dinner. This way, their body’s natural rhythm won’t be disrupted by digital screens.

You may also consider having dim lighting in your child’s room to make it even more conducive for sleeping.

Automate your child’s bedtime with a “habit loop”

While routines are useful for adults looking to create better habits, they’re absolutely essential for young children. According to James Clear, author of the bestselling book “Atomic Habits”, “habit loops” can be powerful tools for creating the behaviours we want.

The theory behind habit loops is that creating – and repeating – a series of activities, will over time, condition the brain to move to the next step automatically. In this case, you could create a habit loop for your child that looks like this:

  1. Take a bath
  2. Brush your teeth
  3. Read (or listen to) a bedtime story
  4. Sleep

Do this every day and after several repetitions, your child’s brain will relate the fourth step in this habit loop with “feeling sleepy” – making it easier and more natural to go to bed after their bedtime story. The key here is practising your child’s habit loop with consistency!

Reduce your child’s dependency on having you beside them

A common issue parents have is their child relying on their presence by their bedside. Although this is understandable and seemingly easy to keep up with initially, it can become tiring when an older child still can’t go to sleep without mummy or daddy sitting by their side until they’ve dozed off – and for parents, this eventually means less mummy-daddy time for each other!

Once your child is old enough to sleep safely on their own, we recommend minimising your presence during bedtime. You can start by sitting on a chair beside your child’s bed (instead of being on the bed), before progressing to kissing them goodnight and leaving the room with the lights on, to turning off the lights as you leave the room.

This method of progressively increasing the distance between you and your child, will help your kid feel more comfortable with sleeping by themselves, over a period.

Give your child a comfortable bed to snuggle onto

Your child’s bed could be the biggest contributing factor in whether (or not) they get a good night’s sleep – or whether they’ll wake after much tossing and turning.

If you haven’t experienced the comfort and quality of a latex mattress for yourself, we highly recommend dropping by a Sofzsleep showroom to try our selection! For children’s mattresses, the benefits that latex offers are even more important – these mattresses as natively inhospitable to dust creatures, fungi and bacteria, which make them safer and more hygienic for children than other types of mattresses.

And of course, the plush comfort of a Sofzsleep latex mattress means that your child will go to sleep more quickly (and willingly) – and stay restfully asleep all night long!