If you’re dealing with tantrums at bedtime and their normal sleep routine isn't working, it could be because your toddlers’ body clock is out of sync. Like a bad case of jet lag, if your little one is taking more than 30 minutes to get to sleep, it’s a clear sign his internal clock isn’t recognising it’s time for bed (even if yours is exhausted!).
“The way your child’s body clock works depends partly on genetics: some of us have a tendency to be ‘morning people’ and some of us have a tendency to be ‘night owls’” explains sleep expert Dr Monique. But even the sleepiest night owls can struggle to nod off. This is down to the cells deep inside our brains, regulated by a hormone called melatonin.
The science of sleep
Far less complicated than it sounds, Dr Monique explains how melatonin guides sleep: ‘Levels are low during the day, increase during the evening and peak at night’. Our levels of melatonin start to rise about two hours before we start to feel sleepy, and by the time those two hours are up, our ‘sleep window’ is open and we find it easy to nod off.
The good news is that in a few simple steps (seven to be precise), you can maximise your little one’s melatonin production, helping him to feel sleepy when you put him down. All of them revolve around increasing the amount of natural light your tot gets: ‘Exposure to natural light helps set his body clock to be alert during the day and sleep at night, so your aim is to maximise this in the daytime’ says Monique.
How to boost your baby's sleep hormone:
1) Get those curtains open
Make sure you open his curtains as soon as he’s awake. Play games
that mean he spends time looking up to the sky – encourage him to find shapes in the clouds or spot different birds to make it fun.
Meet the expert: Dr Monique LeBourgeois is a sleep expert and psychologist from the University of Colorado.