My daughter HATES going to bed. She will drag out the experience for as long as is possible by any tactics necessary. “I need the potty”. “I want water”. “Muuuuuuuuum”. On this game goes until finally I tell her that this is it, I’m not coming back in. Then its time to try and fit in an hour of “mum and dad time” before collapsing to sleep ourselves…
Nightmarish bedtime routine aside, our daughter sleeps really well. Rarely waking up unless she has managed to kick the blankets off during the night and then cant find them again. In which case its just a quick reset and everyone is back to sleep. I often talk to other mums who get up frequently during the night and have come to realise that either I am blessed with one of the few children that naturally sleep well, or we are on to something with what we do.
With that in mind, here are my top 6 ways to get your kiddies to bed and keep them asleep – so that you get the precious sleep you deserve!
1. Eat protein foods at dinner. Just like with adults, very often when kids wake at night it is due to low blood sugar. As adults we usually think that we wake up to pee, but actually your bladder and body can cope with a ton of fluid and it is more likely that something else woke you up and peeing is a last minute impulse. Eating some quality animal protein at dinner will give kids a sense of fullness and also slow down how quickly they process the rest of their meal. The trick to use is to make sure they eat the widest variety of proteins you can. My daughter will only eat the same type of meat for two consecutive meals, after that – my husband has to force it down. Try to rotate your meats every day and you will see your kids start to eat more.
2. Eat quality fats throughout the day. This one really has to begin at breakfast and be a feature of all meals throughout the day. Kids NEED fats in their diet, even more than adults do due to the rate at which they are growing – in fact it is well known that kids on low fat diets dont grow well. Fats form the basis for hormone production, brain and nervous system development and is needed to absorb many of the vitamins you eat. Good choices include: butter, coconut oil, avocado fruit and oil, nuts and nut oils, olive and olive oils, coconut products in general and lard and duck fat. Kids are usually self limiting when it comes to eating dietary fats, so dont panic if they go crazy on Monday, they will balance it out across the week.
3. Get some sun! If you live where we do in Australia, the sun shines from November to June – and yet we have some of the palest, white grey adults and kids in the world! Everyone here is so Sun phobic that kids literally cant go outside without a hazmat chemical clean up suit on. Ok, thats dramatic but point made. While it is important to not get burnt, not getting enough sun (and particularly Vitamin D3) causes just as many problems for people. Studies have shown that getting sun exposure improves sleep quality, which is pretty good considering its free. Just dont get burnt.
4. Dont eat cereal for breakfast. Ok this is a really tough one and I’m not suggesting this every day because it is convenient, but kids who eat whole foods rather than cereals during the day will sleep better. Cereal and other processed grains (processed foods in genereal) cause a faster spike in blood sugar and the inevitable crash as well. And if you start your kids on a blood sugar rollercoaster in the morning then they tend to continue on it the rest of the day (not to mention making your life hell). My favourite alternatives are leftovers from last nights dinner (yes, meat and veggies) or coconut yogurt with fruit. This can be a tough transition, so dont feel pressured to do it all at once, start on the weekends and add a weekday every week or so – preparation is key. The transition is worth it though, your kids will be more balanced in energy and even perform better at school.
5. Dont drink soft drinks. Im not going to explain this one, suffice to say that soft drink isnt food and should not be consumed with anything other than spiced rum on occasion! (no rum for kids either haha).
6. Kill the screens early in the day. My daughter can already operate ipads and iphones of course like every 2 year old. The artificial blue light that come from screens however, will wind your kid up when they should be winding down, meaning they go to bed irritable and unsettled. Swap the screens for a story, book or even just quiet time in their play room. You will notice the difference on this one almost immediately! How long before? At least 2 hours before they are due to sleep.
So there it is! My top 6 habits to improve your entire households sleeping habits. Start wherever you feel comfortable and dont put pressure on yourself to get it perfect – we still dont. Sometimes you just want 5 fucking minutes of peace and you stick on a cartoon and ill be damned if I’m going to feel guilty about that! Implement what you can and enjoy the ride.
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