Top 12 sleep solutions for parents of babies, toddlers and preschoolers

A no-worry approach for great sleep at each age and stage.

By Ann Douglas

Solutions 1 to 6

1. Make sure that your child is getting adequate sleep.
According to the National Sleep Foundation, babies need 14 to 15 hours of sleep, toddlers need 12 to 14 hours and preschoolers need 11 to 13 hours in each 24-hour period to function at their best. And the more sleep-deprived a child is, the more likely he is to be sleepy and overtired during the day, to change sleeping locations at night, and to have more sleep problems overall. Sleep begets sleep -- it can't be said often enough.

2. Begin your child's bedtime routine when your child is sleepy but not overtired.
Ideally, your baby's bedtime routine should last 30 to 60 minutes and your toddler or preschooler's bedtime routine should last 20 to 30 minutes, and it should include elements that he finds genuinely enjoyable. (Having problems getting your child to go to bed? Read 3 solutions for bedtime battles.)

3. Use the power of daylight to reset your child's sleep-wake clock.
Daylight plays a powerful role in resetting our circadian rhythms, so by exposing your child to daylight as soon as she wakes up in the morning, you'll be giving her body a powerful cue that morning has arrived.

4. Provide your child with a sleep environment that is sleep-enhancing.
That means a sleep environment that is cool (but not cold), dark and quiet. And don't forget to check for comfort, too. Make sure that your child is sleeping on a comfortable mattress in nonitchy pajamas so that nothing can disrupt your child's trip to dreamland.

5. Make sure your child's sleep environment is safe, too.
Childproof your child's bedroom and keep the hall clutter-free at night.

6. Teach your child how to soothe himself back to sleep, and be aware of how sleep associations affect your child's sleep habits.
Continue to reinforce relaxing bedtime routines and to encourage your child to soothe himself back to sleep if he wakes up in the night. About one-third of preschoolers still need some hands-on help from Mom and Dad in soothing themselves back to sleep.

Have problems getting your child to sleep? Share your worries with other readers in our forums.

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