How To Get More “ME” Time
Happy New Year! It’s the start of 2016 and the perfect time to look back on 2015 and resolve to make some positive changes in your life. If you’re a parent, I bet more “ME” time probably topped your New Year’s Resolution list, right? What parent wouldn’t want that? Well, I can’t add more hours to your day – I’m not a miracle worker, just a sleep coach – but I can give you some tips to help you get more much-needed “ME” time in your day.
The key is putting your kids to bed early and taking the evening back for yourself. Studies have shown that infants & toddlers with early bedtimes have improved health-related quality of life and – read this carefully – their MOMS felt more in control and had improved mood and mental health. It’s a win-win. An early bedtime is better for kids and can actually make you happier! See, more “ME” time does help to improve your sanity.
Imagine a world where your kids are in bed by 8:00pm at the latest. Putting them to bed was peaceful and enjoyable and they actually stay in their beds after lights out. There is no protesting, no crying, no stalling, no frustrated kids and no frustrated parents. Once they’re in bed this leaves a few precious hours of “ME” time in the evening for you to enjoy yourself - have a glass of wine, talk to your spouse and catch up on reality TV :)
Now that I’ve painted this delightful scene for you, how do you actually achieve it?
Start with a great bedtime routine. Think back to Psychology 101 and Pavlov’s dog. Pavlov coupled ringing a bell with the presentation of food and, eventually, simply ringing the bell caused the dog to salivate. Why are we flashing back to Freshman year? Well, excuse the analogy, but think of the bedtime routine as the bell and your children as, well, the dog. When a bedtime routine is consistently paired with sleep, the routine itself can actually work to induce sleepiness.
Going to bed should be something kids enjoy, not dread – make it fun. Start a 10-15 minute pre-bed routine with whatever combination of activities they like – reading, singing, talking, etc. Night after night the routine should be the same. Your kids will come to expect and enjoy it and it will make bedtime much easier. At our house, my daughters start yawning when we sit in the chair to read books. Classical conditioning at its finest - thanks, Pavlov.
As the saying goes, timing is everything. Nothing is more true when it comes to infant and toddler sleep. The best way to ensure that your kids go down for bed and naps easily is for them to come to expect it. The more consistent their daily sleep schedule is, their body becomes accustomed to it and sleep comes more easily. Babies up until their second birthdays may need bedtimes as early as 6:00 or even earlier depending on their nap schedules- but most should be in bed by 7:00. Two year olds through Kindergarten age kids may need to go to bed as early as 6:30 or 7:00 – but most should be in bed by 8:00.
Your kids should love their room. Play there, read there, cuddle there. Build happy, positive memories in their room. At night it should be very dark to promote deep, sound sleep. Keep the temperature a cool 68-70 degrees. Using a white noise machine will help to drown out any household noise and provide a calm backdrop for sleep.
Making bedtime enjoyable, predictable and comfortable for your kids are your first steps to achieving more “ME” time in your day. So, this New Year, resolve to make everyone in your family happier and healthier by putting your kids to bed early.