By Kathryn Trudeau
Sleep and children. What a complicated relationship! Children, especially babies and toddlers, need much more sleep than adults; yet, actually getting a child to bed can be a long, drawn-out process that leaves parents more exhausted than the kids! But what happens to parents that have two (or more) kids who need to go to bed at the same time?
The truth is that – with a little planning and a little patience – it is possible to get multiple kids to bed without a major fuss. Imagine having a quiet evening to yourself? Can this really happen? Here are 5 tips for getting two or more kids to sleep at the same time.
Out with the Blue and In with the Orange
Before your bedtime routine even begins, you’ll be doing yourself a major favor by cutting out blue light and bringing in the orange light. What are blue lights? Blue light is the type of light emitted from screens: iPads, smartphones, tablets, computer screens, and TVs. Experts agree that blue lights should be avoided in the one-two hour period before bedtime. Blue lights can inhibit sleep by disrupting the body’s natural circadian rhythm aka the thing that makes you feel tired! If you have multiple kids to get to sleep, make a house-wide rule that the blue light reign ends two hours before bed.
So what’s the deal with the orange lights? Unlike blue lights, the orange (more like amber) lights do not interfere with the body’s internal clock. That means if your 8-year-old likes to read on her Kindle, switch to the “night mode” which enables the device to emit orange light – not blue. You can also install lamps with orange light bulbs for reading bedtime stories.
Create a Routine
If a sleep therapist could give anyone (child or adult) one piece of sleep advice, it would be this: establish a solid, consistent routine. Our bodies are amazing and are capable of adapting to many schedules. What that means is if we want to get into a habit of getting to bed by a certain time, all we have to do is …well… do it. The more often we go to bed at 8 pm, the more quickly our body will tell us it is ready for bed at 8 pm.
If a routine is important for one child, the routine becomes even more critical for multiple kids! The key is having a routine that is short and consistent such as:
- Jammies for everyone: babies and older kids!
- Reading in bed
- Cuddles and a kiss goodnight
Routines work because they act as little clues that start mentally prepping your children for bed. Nothing’s worse than thinking you have hours of playtime left and then suddenly you have to jump right into bed: routines ease kids into the thought of bedtime.
Create the Right Mood for Everyone
Once everyone has started the routine, it’s a good idea to set the right mood. If you’re trying to get the baby to sleep, but the older kids are still wrestling (and all wrestling matches are always filled with loud laughter), it’s going to be a lot harder for the baby to sleep.
Create a peaceful, sleep-inducing mood for everyone:
- Dim lights
- Use a white noise machine or play soft lullaby music in the background
- Limit noisy machines (vacuum, loud dishwashers, etc)
Do What You Can Together
A 6-month-old and a 3-year-old are going to have slightly different routines for falling asleep, but your job will be much easier if you can keep the two kids on the same routine for as long as possible. That means, bathe the kids together, dress them in jammies at the same time, and read to them both (if possible) at the same time. This allows them both to have your attention.
Prioritize Their Needs
Perhaps this is the most crucial step in getting two kids to bed at the same time: deciding who needs to actually fall asleep first.
- Is the baby ready right now? If so, get the baby to sleep first. An overtired baby will surely derail everyone else’s bedtime vibes.
- Is the oldest ready for bed first? This can commonly happen especially if the older child has already given up daily naps.
Once you know who needs to go to sleep first, make the necessary plans. If the baby is going to bed first, set your older child up with a quiet activity (remember no blue lights!) such as looking at picture books in his/her bed. If the older child is going to bed first, have the baby play on a play mat near another family member or partner if you can. If not, set him up in a swing or bouncer with a few soft toys (nothing flashy, loud, or with lights).
Figuring out what routine and arrangement work best for your family can take some trial and error, but once you find your golden routine, your kids will be counting sheep in no time!
- Why blue lights are bad: https://www.health.harvard.edu/staying-healthy/blue-light-has-a-dark-side
- Orange/ amber light: http://www.health.com/sleep/red-spectrum-light-sleep