As the evenings are now brighter it can be more difficult to maintain your child’s early bedtime.  Unfortunately, despite the stretch in the evening, bed time stays the same!  Most young children under the age of 5 years will benefit from a bedtime between 6-8pm.  If your child is going to bed later than this and it is working for you, then don’t worry.  However, often too late bedtimes wreak havoc on good sleep, causes bedtime battles, frequent waking and a messed up nap schedule.

I like to work on a 7-8pm bedtime most of the time, provided that the child is well rested throughout the day and is not irritable and cranky.  Read your child’s sleep cues and don’t be afraid of a slightly earlier bedtime if your young child appears ready to sleep-it rarely causes a child to wake too early to start the day which is what frightens most parents.  Young children naturally waken from 6am onwards.

Helping your child go easily to sleep with these brighter evening means more effort from you.

Within the hour of bedtime I would advise dimming the environment-closing blinds and curtains downstairs and switching off the television and any other gadgets.

Then allow for about 45 minutes for a bath if you are doing one and a bedtime routine, which you really should do.  I don’t believe that a bath is a pre requisite, but if you and your child enjoy it, then splash away.   If you opt out of a bath, then allocate 20-30 minutes for your bedtime routine and make sure that you do this is your child’s bedroom with the blinds and curtains drawn.

Black out blinds are great for eliminating the bright evenings and in turn the lighter mornings, so invest in some to help enhance your child’s production of the sleep hormone melatonin and to prevent early rising on the other end.

Once you have prepared your child for sleep; sleep clothes, story time, cuddles, kiss and tuck in.  Make sure that no night light from the hallway or other rooms is escaping into your child’s bedroom, if it is you will either need to close the child’s bedroom door, or eliminate the light from the external sources.  Bright light will make it hard for the brain to switch off, so it is worth the effort…Good luck!

Lucy Wolfe, CGSC, MAPSC, is a paediatric sleep consultant and mum of four young children. She runs a private sleep consulting practice where she provides knowledge, expertise and valuable support to families across the country. See www.sleepmatters.ie <http://www.sleepmatters.ie>, t: 087 2683584 or e: lucy@sleepmatters.ie