The following video and article were originally created for and aired on The Early Show on CBS, and CBSnews.com.
(CBS) It can be a nightmare for both parents and children: kids continually waking up in the middle of the night. But parenting expert Shannon Eis, a contributor to TTPM.com magazine, shared some advice and products on “The Early Show” to help get some “rest for the weary.”
Eis explained there are three main causes of what she likes to call “night wakings.” The first is night terrors, or bad dreams.
“We all have nightmares,” she said. “As adults, we’re able to shake it off and go back to sleep. It’s not that easy, obviously, for kids. Very young children often do not know what woke them and older children usually end up in the parent’s bed because naturally, they’re scared.”
The second is because of restless sleep: without a solid bedtime routine, kids are subject to a restless night’s sleep. Eis suggests developing a routine each night to help your child relax and wind down from the day. (i.e., keep the light off, speak calmly, don’t stay in the room for a long time, read them a bedtime story, etc). Also, avoid caffeine and sugar before bed.
The third reason could be because of medical issues. If your child is waking in the middle of the night often, or complains of aches or pains, check with your pediatrician. Children are not immune to sleep disorders such as sleep apnea and insomnia, Eis said, so if problems continue for an extended period of time, again, maybe it’s time to visit a pediatrician.
Eis also suggests parents try out these back-to-sleep methods:
• Help your child learn that nighttime and darkness don’t have to be scary – take walks in the neighborhood after dark, count the stars in your backyard, catch and release fireflies – or other activities that make fun out of darkness.
• Use “snuggle time” as part of the wind-down routine, or to reward them for sleeping through the night.
• Go on a monster search. Turn on all the lights before bedtime and search for monsters (or ghosts) to make sure the rooms are clear.
• Reduce naps. Some experts believe that reducing the amount of time young children sleep during the day can extend the hours they sleep at night.
For parents, Eis says it’s important to remain calm.
“It’s important to remember that in most cases, children don’t wake in the middle of the night for attention, but they do want your help,” she said. “Sure, there’s nothing more annoying than being awakened in the middle of the night by your scared child. But you have to manage your frustration and exhaustion. Kids usually just want some reassurance, and if you have the proper tools to handle them, they’ll be back to sleep in no time. On the other hand, we need to use discretion when checking up on our kids. Don’t feel like you have to get up every time you hear a noise.”
Eis suggests these products to help your children get a better night’s sleep:
Rockabye & Hushabye Baby CDs
Younger children, especially ones who are having a restless night’s sleep, respond well to music or holding/rocking if they’re waking up in the middle of the night. There are these Rockabye Baby and Hushabye Baby lines of baby CDs which I love. The Rockabye Baby CDs feature “soft” versions of songs we adults know and love — songs by U2, Bob Marley, the Beatles, and more. And the Hushabye Baby CDs are similar, except they’re soft versions of popular country songs.
You can also read them a story, and there are loads of books written for nights when kids wake up from a bad dream or are having trouble sleeping. A couple of my favorites are: “Bernstein Bears and the Bad Dream” and “There’s a Nightmare in My Closet.” Also, I really like “Goodnight Moon,” “The Going To Bed Book,” and “The Quiet Book.”
Noise machines are great additions to a kids room. Many adults have them, they help us fall asleep. They play a variety of soothing sounds, which have been proven to make it a bit easier for kids to fall back asleep.
This one from Brookstone even features a pre-natal setting for infants (it sounds like a muffled heart beat).
It seems simple, but we have one clipped to the side of both of our kids’ beds and it’s been a game changer. The breeze coming off the fan combined with that whirring sound can really help relax and soothe your kids and get them back to sleep, especially on a hot summer night.
This is the Stoplight Sleep Enhancing Clock. It’s a fun and simple way for toddlers to answer their own question, “Is it time to get up?” At a young age, toddlers know their colors and understand that red means stop and green means go. Parents or kids can set the time. When it’s on red, it’s time to sleep. Green? Time to wake up.
There are loads of options and just about any one will do, but I really like this trend of lights that kids can keep in bed with them, like this Twilight Turtle. The light from its shell projects a starry night sky onto the walls and ceiling, and it’s safe for a child to hold, so they can keep it in their bed with them and fall asleep with it.
We also have a more conventional style of nightlight that simply plugs into the wall, but you can see the little plastic fish moving around which makes it more fun for the kids.
And there are of course others that are activated by movement or sound.
If you need to check on your child in the middle of the night, make sure you have a flash light nearby because, chances are, you’re going to be walking around in the dark. Unfortunately, for me, I was doing just that when I tripped on a stair and broke a bone in my foot. So make sure you have one of these in your hand while navigating around the house.