3 Simple Steps to a Good Night's Sleep

Getting enough sleep is essential for children to function normally and learn at their optimal levels.

In general, a one-year-old needs about 14 hours of sleep a day, including nighttime sleep and daytime naps. That need drops to 13 hours by 18 months, and as little as 11 or 12 by the time your child is three. To ensure that your child gets the sleep he needs:

1. Establish a Bedtime Routine

Following a set order of evening rituals -- bathing, tooth brushing, reading a book -- helps a child learn to let go of the day's activity.

2. Adjust the Daytime Schedule

If your child has difficulty falling asleep at bedtime, shorten his afternoon nap. If he needs to stay up late so that he can spend more time with you after work, lengthen his afternoon nap. If your present work schedule prevents you from seeing your child until late evening, consider taking some work home to after you've had some time with him. You can also help your child readjust his natural clock to the needs of your household. Gradually over time, keep your early riser up a bit later each night so he can adjust to sleeping later. Put your night owl to bed a few minutes earlier each night.

3. Avoid Getting into Bad Habits

To help your child learn to put himself to sleep rather than rely on you, always put him into his crib while he's still awake. After the newborn stage, don't respond to every whimper or cry. If you know that your baby is not hungry, give him the opportunity to soothe himself back to sleep before going into his room. If you do go into his room, refrain from picking him up. Keeping the lights dim, gently rub his back and talk with him. Remind him that it's time to sleep and leave the room again. If he continues to cry, wait five minutes before returning to him. Continue to reassure him with soft words, but don't engage him in activity. Next time wait ten minutes, and so on. Eventually, he will get the idea that it's his job to sleep through the night.

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