My kids, Oliver, 4 1/2 and Alexander, above, 2 have never been the greatest of sleepers (eldest had colic then chronic ear infections and second’s sleep deteriorated after teething and tonsillitis) but sleep patterns seemed to have gotten even worse towards the end of the summer. Lack of structure, late daylight hours, outbreaks of tonsillitis for my toddler and a period of nightmares (my eldest, and I to be honest) pre-school starting, all contributed.
We were all shattered!
Fast forward to Oliver starting and settling into school well (he’s so happy), a more structured routine and a few dietary changes and the boys are sleeping better than ever. So, I wanted to share what has worked for us.
I’m not a doctor nor a sleep expert (sadly) but I’m a mum of two who is grateful for a better night’s sleep so if you’re struggling too, do check out my tips below.
Please do remember however, that each child is different so what works for us might not work for you!
The kids have a pretty healthy diet but it did seem like they were having too many treats lately so I’ve really cut back on sugar and refined carbs and ensured meals and desserts are as balanced as possible.
This healthy crumble is a favourite in this house and I’ve got tonnes of healthy and tasty recipes HERE! And of course, they’re kids so are still allowed treats every so often just not close to bedtime and ideally on a weekend!
We also eliminated wheat a while back as rashes started to appear on Oliver which baffled the doctors. I read the book Wheat Belly, decided to try ridding the grain and he’s never felt better (rashes have all but disappeared) and we all feel great avoiding it too.
Rice and oats are staple carbs along with beans and pulses and thanks to Doves Farm gluten free flour, rice flour and rice pasta, we’ve not even missed it.
…Oliver has never been great with cow’s milk either (some research suggests limiting cow’s milk can help with those prone to ear infections as Oliver is) and I recently switched us all to goat (honesty doesn’t taste goat-y), oat and soya milk and this has also seemed to have helped.
Good digestion affects all aspects of health so it’s worth looking at your diet and researching what might work for your family.
Despite being tired from school, we’ve all been doing more physical exercise to really feel sleepier come bedtime. This might mean us running around the garden for half an hour or more (weather permitting) or jumping on a mountain of pillows in the living room (lounge trampoling we call it) but physical fun really releases pent up energy and frustration, stops them fighting and means better sleep for us all!
3. Down Time
This exercise session is of course followed by wind-down time. So no TV or digital attention- draining, brain stimuli before bed.
It works for me too. I switch everything off at least 90 minutes before I sleep so I can fully switch off.
The boys then have another snack, maybe a small bowl of porridge (a great relaxant and filling too), some Ryvita with butter or an apple and yoghurt. Balanced snacks that will keep them full through the night.
4. Bath, Books, Bed
Bath time allows the kids to relax and I often jump in too (with just one, our bath isn’t that big)!
Then we read together in bed-sharing our love of Peter Rabbit, some of Roald Dahl (self-edited) and Horrid Henry.
Oliver is learning to read now so although I’ve read to him and Alexander since birth, it’s a real joy to see him recognising letters and words and equally funny to hear Alexander repeat them all as he pretends he can read himself!
My husband Peter then puts Alexander to bed in his bedroom and together they read some more while I put Oliver in his room. We rotate who puts who to bed but generally Oliver likes me to and as I’ve seen Alexander a lot more during the day.
As we co-slept with our kids a lot, when it was time to move them into their own rooms, they favoured big beds so each have a double. They’re at an age where that is safe for them and they are happy there.
It also means they can sleep together too if they choose to or one of us can sleep with them if they are ill or having a bad night.
…I make sure the room isn’t too hot or cold and as Oliver gets quite warm in the night I sometimes leave the top small window a little ajar. I have black out blinds but need curtains too to really block out all the light. I have however found a way of placing ornaments by them safely to prevent most of the light.
I’ve also started to shut doors from the other rooms and have abandoned the night light in the corridor which streamed through his door even when shut.
…I usually lie with Oliver or sit on the bed stroking his hair so he feels safe and secure at night. We can’t expect our kids to immediately feel safe just because it’s dark outside and we all want to sleep. Plus it’s our special time together and we both love it.
And there you have it…so far, so good, two children sleeping through the night. Yes this can’t last every night- illness, nightmares, life can get in the way but it’s great to achieve it, to know what works (for now) so we can return to it after any bouts of the above return and are over again.
We are firmly back into a routine now but are not chained to it. If one night they kids are in bed a bit later, I don’t freak out but we aim to get them both asleep by 8 most nights and all the changes above seem to be working.
I hope they help you too.
Do leave comments and ask any questions you might have below,
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