I am a bear if I do not get enough sleep. My kids are the same way. Little bears. Cute, little, loud, growling bears.
As the biggest bear, my job is to make sure they have a distraction free zone so they can get the sleep they need so I can get the sleep I need — so that life as we know it can continue.
Experts say, "Children who get enough sleep are more likely to function better and are less prone to behavioral problems and moodiness." I don't really need an expert to tell me that. To that end, I want as little as possible to get in the way of a good night's sleep for them, for me and for my wife — the most important bear of all.
The Sleep Foundation states that kids between the ages of 3 – 5 years need about 11 to 13 hours sleep a night. Ages 6 - 13 need 9 to 11 hours sleep. Good luck with that. Here are a few hints:
Stick to a constant routine
Having kids and an established routine seems to be contradictory. Do your best to find the constants. Start with baths and then get into PJs. A routine — or an approximation of one — is both comforting and comfortable. It means relaxation, and relaxed kids sleep.
Turn off the electronics
Don't allow TV during the time you are getting ready for bed. TV splits the focus, defuses attention, and sucks the life out children — and I don't mean in a good way. Put the phone down, or up and out of the reach of any hands — including yours. A little music or ambiance isn't bad and can set a quiet, calming mood. I like putting on church talks, which puts me and the kids both right to sleep.
Lose the lights
I took a trick from Star Trek. I dim all the lights during the get-ready-for-bed cycle. I actually have several inexpensive blue lights that I use as the day turns into evening. It's calming. At least it is calming for me and the dog. I use them as night lights as well. The kids know that when the blue light comes on it's time for bed.
A change in family attitude towards bedtime does wonders. I don't use bed as a negative consequence. Bedtime should be something everyone can relax into, not the representation of their weeklong grounding.
Let it snow
I am an Idaho native, and I'm not that into heat, so I have no problem turning the temperature down a bit. I leave the window open for a while or turn on a fan – the white noise factor does double duty. The kids snuggle into their blankets, and all is well — until they need a drink.
Establish a "no monsters" policy
There are no monsters allowed at my house. I don't deny monsters exist if questioned, but I have a firm policy concerning their presence. I don't spend time defusing scary situations. Monsters will just have to find someplace else to go for the night. We are sleeping.
Placebos are your friend
I use fresh carpet powder or baking soda. I put it in a can of my choosing and sprinkle it around the bed. It calms down imaginary nerves or nervousness and keep "bugs" away. A little vanilla scented water works as an anti-sadness spray or as a I-know-your-not-tired-but-lay-down-anyway spray. Once I used a lavender essential oil diffuser that was meant to repel clowns. It worked. I didn't see a clown for months.
Calm the house down
Once you have put the kids to bed, it might not be a bad idea to slow things down yourself. Once the children have laid themselves down to sleep, it generally is quiet time in our house for all – even the teenagers. Being respectful of others is a good family thing. Turn down the volume on electronics, dim the lights and speak in quieter tones. Homework and reading are good quiet time activities.
Understand natural clocks
Like adults, kids have a natural clock. There are early risers and late risers. Regardless of their inner clock create a standard bedtime and abide by it. Understanding your child's inner clock will do wonders for your relationship, and you will not be fighting every single night.
Above all, decide that getting your bears ready for bedtime is going to be enjoyable and make it so.