There are inevitable times in your child’s life when their sleep schedule and daily routine gets off track. Whether it’s from company staying at your house, a vacation, or even illness-life happens.
Once the event is over, you may notice that your child’s schedule has fallen apart. Usually this is accompanied with a child that is over-tired and cranky. Not fun for anyone!
And if your child is tired, that means you likely are, as well.
The good news is that you can get your child’s sleep schedule back on track, with relative ease.
Here are four tips how to get your child’s sleep schedule back on track.
Create a Consistent Schedule
When we’re on vacation, or have visitors at our house, there is a tendency for everyone’s schedule to become looser. While this is understandable-we want to take in as much as possible-this can wreak havoc on our child’s sleep needs. And it will often show up in their mood and temperament.
To avoid having a cranky little one, we want to bring back a consistent schedule. And you can do this right away. There is no need to slowly ease back into things. Just get going with their regularly scheduled programming.
This means establishing a regular morning wake up time between 6:00am-7:30am. And yes, that does mean waking them up if they are sleeping past 7:30am.
You will also want to get back to regular and consistent nap times, too. While you will want to watch your child for their subtle sleep cues, you will still want to stick with pretty consistent nap times that respect their biological sleep rhythms.
Finally; move bedtime up earlier. While we want to have a pretty consistently-timed morning wake up and nap times, bedtime can be flexible when your little one is over-tired.
Consider the quality of their naps from the past few days, watch their mood in the early evening, and put them down when you first notice initial, subtle sleep cues.
When we’re travelling or have visitors in our home, it’s common and understandable to become self-conscious about any sound our little one makes.
In an attempt to not disturb those around us, or to try to get everyone back to sleep quickly, we may start to “help” our children back to sleep.
It can only take three days or so of our children getting used to our “help” for a sleep association to form. A sleep association is any condition or external item that your child begins to rely on, to fall asleep. This can include using items like a pacifier, motion or co-sleeping.
Once our guests leave, or we’re back at home, it’s time to reestablish independent sleep skills. Similar to re-creating their routine- you can just jump back into this.
If your child could already fall asleep independently before, then you likely won’t need to spend too many nights to bring those skills back.
Maybe your child wasn’t able to fall asleep on their own before, and now you’re ready to start. You can read my Sleep Training Series here, to find the right method for you.
Mind Your Mindset
How do you tackle projects or changes in your life? Do you tend to rush into things head-first, or, do you proceed with caution and consider all angles?
Regardless of which personality trait you identify with more, self-awareness is a valuable skill to have.
Parents who head into projects (AKA sleep training) full-steam ahead, may have a tendency to have an “all or nothing” approach.
If this is you, I would caution you to not feel like every single aspect of your child’s sleep schedule has to be perfect right away.
There will be ebbs and flows and you will be further ahead in the long run, with a consistent approach. Otherwise, it will be tempting to give up at the first detour or bump in the road.
However, if you’re the type of parent that needs to research everything, and hesitates to make a choice on how to proceed; be careful that you don’t hesitate too long.
Indecision is still a decision. And while we research, we risk getting overwhelmed with information.
We’re also giving up valuable time that could’ve had us one more day closer to being back on track.
It’s ok to read and research to feel comfortable, but it’s also ok to work on fixing your child’s sleep without having all the answers.
When trying to get your child’s sleep back on track, consider how long you feel they have been “off”. Then apply this timeline to their recovery.
If it was a just a long weekend away, then it likely won’t take your child too long to have a regular routine.
However, if you feel your child has never really had a great sleep schedule, then they will likely need a few weeks to establish healthy patterns.
Regardless of where they’re at, they will need you to be consistent with the above tips.
If children are over-tired and have a sleep debt, it’s like having a financial debt. It usually didn’t occur overnight, and it won’t be fixed overnight, either.
Use the tips I’ve listed here; day in and day out. This consistency will bring about the quickest results.
Getting Back On Track
Creating regular schedules, working on independent sleep, being aware of your mindset and being consistent with new changes will help get your child’s sleep schedule back on track.
Our children want to sleep, and they want to sleep well. They-and you-can do this!
However sometimes this can all feel overwhelming and we don’t know where to start.