What We Discovered When We Spent the Night in Our Kids’ Room (+10 tips for creating a sleeping sanctuary for your kids!)
The Hubs and I didn’t mean to play musical beds with our kids last week…
We were changing mattresses, and the mattress we were sending back was picked up on the day before the new mattress was delivered. Since we didn’t feel like sleeping on the box springs, we decided to blow up our queen-size air mattress for the peeps to sleep on while we took their bunk beds (that have cozy memory foam toppers!). Of course, the peeps thought it was the coolest thing ever to not only sleep in our room but to sleep on an air mattress that was on top of our box springs — so the bed was SUPER tall!
The Hubs and I thought it would be awesome to spend a night on their memory foam, especially since the mattress we were anxiously waiting for was organic memory foam.
Little did we know that we were in for one of the most sleepless nights we’ve had in a while… 🙁
It Was NOT A Sleeping Sanctuary!
As soon as we turned off the lights, there was a problem: too much light was coming in through the windows.
Despite having light-blocking curtains, street light was flooding in at the top and sides of the windows. We are accustomed to sleeping in a completely dark room, but the peeps’ room was bright enough that I could easily see the features of the room, even with the lights off.
The second thing we noticed was the noise. Hubs and I both have white noise installed on our phones, which we have going throughout the night to block out as much outside sound as possible. Even with our noise turned all the way up, we were bombarded with sounds from passing cars and emergency sirens all night long. We live in a bottom floor apartment right now, so we could also hear noise from the upstairs neighbors.
The kids sleep with a small box fan for noise, yet we immediately realized that their little fan doesn’t put out enough noise to drown out the sounds from outside and upstairs.
The third obstacle to our restful night was the temperature of the room. It got too hot! On cold nights, we keep the thermostat set at 70 degrees, and in our bedroom, it stays nice and cool — which we love. It felt like all the heat was blowing into their room, making it feel stuffy and hot.
So why did a little bit of light, normal nighttime street noise, and 70-degree heat keep us awake all night? And why am I glad we experienced their room for a night?
The Importance Of A Healthy Sleeping Environment
We have spent years perfecting the atmosphere, lighting, and temperature of our bedroom so that we are each getting the best sleep possible. We’ve…
- Removed our clock.
- Taped over the small, red lights from the TV and DVD player.
- Installed clean, white noise on our phones so that it plays all night long.
- Hung light-blocking curtains with shades underneath to keep light from coming through the top and side of the curtains.
- Made sure our ceiling fan runs without clicking to keep air circulating.
- Closed the vent for the heater during the winter so the room stays cool.
- Invested in the best, non-toxic mattress and pillows we can find.
Our bedroom is a fantastic sleeping sanctuary! We don’t sleep well anywhere else.
But the peeps’ room?
Sure, we hung light-blocking curtains, provided a fan for white noise, and invested in comfy, non-toxic toppers for their beds.
However, we never had a reason to spend the night in their room before to make sure they also have a sleeping sanctuary.
Even though it was a long, sleepless night, the Hubs and I both agreed the next day that we were glad we had the experience. Now that we know we can’t sleep well in their rooms, we’re a bit more understanding of why they’ve had some sleeping problems over the past couple of months.
10 Tips For Creating A Sleeping Sanctuary For Your Kids
Sleep has always been a big deal for our family. We were the parents who would leave an event or holiday gathering to make sure our children got their naps when they were younger. At 12 and 13 years old (now), my children are still consistently sleeping around 10 hours every night!
My kids have ALWAYS been excellent sleepers. So, when they have a bout of insomnia, we always check the bedroom first. Is it too hot? Too stuffy? Is light or noise pollution present? Do they need to remove or add a blanket?
So, here are my tips for the best sleep environments for kids. Hopefully these can help you create a sleeping sanctuary for your kids — especially if they have trouble sleeping!
#1 — A Totally Dark Room
Did you know that your body can sense even the smallest amount of light even if your eyes are closed?
Street lights, a hallway light, even a nightlight — all can wreak havoc on your body’s internal clock because it senses light which shouldn’t be there at night.
The pineal gland, which is responsible for melatonin and seratonin production, gets thrown off by even the tiniest bit of light. Melatonin production increases in the dark (source), but light sources at night impair this melatonin increase.
This is why my husband and I removed our clock, covered the tiny lights on the TV and DVD player, and blocked light from coming through the sides and tops of the windows. My sleep went to a whole new level when we removed this “light pollution”.
My kids have always been such great sleepers, so I assumed the clock light and street lights weren’t bothering them — even though we were in a new apartment that had much more light pollution than our previous home.
Therefore, we blocked out the light coming in around their curtains and removed the clock radio. Their room is completely dark now.
No light pollution = increased melatonin production = falling asleep and staying asleep!
#2 — No Night Light
I realize I may get some disgruntled remarks from a few mommas on this one… Remember, I can only share what we have done and what has worked for OUR family. No judgment here, mommas!
We just never introduced the night light. For a brief time when they were very young, both kids thought they might be afraid of the dark. Rather than solving this problem with a night light, we talked about their fears and rationalized with them instead.
Where was this sudden fear coming from? Had they seen something on TV or in a movie? Was there a bad dream we needed to talk about?
Any time a fear came up (about the dark or a robber or a bad dream), we just talked it through, saying things like:
- Our home is a safe place; you can always feel safe here.
- You can always come to us in the middle of the night. Don’t be afraid to wake us up, even though you’re older and a big kid now.
- Remember that your dreams aren’t real even though they may feel real. Our brains can come up with some crazy stuff when we’re sleeping!
- Your body needs the darkness so you can get good sleep and be healthy. Darkness is good!
I don’t believe my children were ever really afraid of the dark. And after a couple of conversations, lots of hugs, and reassurances from Mommy and Daddy, they truly weren’t!
#3 — Play White Noise
Having a constant “whir” or “hum” to fall asleep to has been crucial for all of us for years.
In fact, I’ve been sleeping with white noise since I was a child. We started our peeps out on white noise when they were babies, and I truly believe it’s one of the reasons why they’ve always been such great sleepers.
Outside sounds such as chirping crickets or birds, traffic and sirens, flying airplanes, a barking dog, or upstairs neighbors are considered “noise pollution” (source). Many people can sleep right through these sounds, but just as many cannot. That’s where white noise is a lifesaver.
We realized that the small fan we had running for the kids was just not loud enough to block out the noise pollution. (Remember, we were in a new apartment on a street which is much busier than our former home.)
We’ve done away with the box fan and upgraded to white noise machines with adjustable volume.
#4 — Lower The Temperature
The optimal sleeping temperature is between 60 and 68 degrees Fahrenheit (source). Decreasing the body’s core temperature initiates sleepiness. Your body’s temperature drops to the lowest point of the 24-hour day about four hours after you fall asleep, so keeping your room cooler actually mimics that drop in temperature and keeps it low — signaling to your body to stay asleep.
If you’ve got hot air blowing in or stuffy, stale air that’s not kept circulating by a fan, your body senses that rise in temperature,. If it’s too warm, it’s enough to rouse you (and your kids) out of a deep sleep.
As of May 2015, we live in a house without central heating/AC. We heat our home with a wood stove now, so the easiest way to keep the rooms cool in the winter is to shut the bedroom doors at night. During the summers, we install window unit air conditioners in the bedrooms only.
To save money and keep your thermostat higher in the summer, these tower fans work really well.
We also removed the light fixtures in the bedrooms and replaced them with ceiling fans to keep the air circulating and prevent that stale, stuffy feeling.
#5 — Have A Snack
Have you ever tried to sleep when you’re hungry? I have, and I can’t do it.
I always end up getting out of bed for a quick snack so that I can fall asleep without a grumbly tummy. The evening meal is our largest of the day, so we make sure they eat plenty. Yet, growing bodies often need to eat every few hours.
So, if they need to eat a little snack to send them off to the Land of Nod with full, happy tummies, that’s ok!
#6 — Begin The Bedtime Routine Before It’s Actually Bedtime
Bedtime is a sacred, quiet time… and it starts about an hour before they actually go to bed.
Beginning around 7-7:30 each evening, things around our house start calming down. We turn down the lights and encourage quiet, restful activities such as a family read aloud, quiet play, warm baths and showers, and snuggling.
We try to limit loud and rowdy behavior like running around the house or rough-housing — not always successfully. 😉
Now that they’re older, we give them 20 or 30 minutes each night to lay in bed and read. The room is dark, but they have lights on their nightstands to provide ample reading light that’s not over-stimulating.
These rituals signal to their bodies and minds that it’s time to get quiet and prepare for a restful night.
#7 — Check In On Their Emotional Health
It’s really difficult to sleep when we’re emotionally unsettled, isn’t it?
Kids may not have the stress of bills, home repairs, errands, and full-time jobs, but they do have stress in their lives. Their stress is just as real and important to them, even if it seems insignificant to us adults.
A sibling fight, a bike crash, an argument with a friend, a bad grade at school, getting in trouble… All of these can weigh heavily on a little one’s mind when things are dark and quiet and they have thoughts to keep them awake.
We make sure our kids are emotionally healthy before bed time. Any behavioral or attitude issues that were addressed earlier in the day, arguments that were had, or any forgiveness or release that needs to happen, we try to facilitate that. We’ve even had our children get out of bed to come and confess something they’ve done earlier in the day!
Try taking a few quiet minutes each day to check in with your child and find out if anything is bothering them. Then, talk about it. No one wants to go to bed with the cares of the day hanging over them!
#8 — Try Guided Meditation
This may help with that emotional piece I discussed above.
Now that we have one pre-teen and one teenager, we’re dealing with instances of ideas or thoughts that keep their minds buzzing long after they should be settled and sleeping.
It’s not “worry”, but things that they either can’t stop thinking about or things they’re trying to figure out.
To quiet their minds and relax muscles, love guided meditation. It’s nothing weird or crazy… just mindfulness, breath focus, and intentional relaxation. The Sonima meditation clips are our favorites — and they’re free!
#9 — We Didn’t Co-Sleep
I am a big advocate for attachment parenting, except for the emphasis placed on co-sleeping. Our children shared a room with us when they were newborns, but not the bed. They had a pack-and-play next to our bed so that I could easily get to them to nurse or change a diaper in the middle of the night.
They were moved to their own rooms and cribs later. Because of this, they never realized that they could come get in bed with us any time and form that habit. We always went to them if they cried, until they were able to get up on their own and come to us if needed.
Until recently, they were still coming to our room when they awoke, and we got lots of snuggling in during that time. They have always slept independently — and it’s been great for all of us!
(If co-sleeping works well for you, you won’t get any flack from me. I support you 100%! My best friend and her family co-sleep! The whole family in one bedroom. It works really well for them. Again, this is just what worked/works for US.)
#10 — Use Essential Oils
Even if nothing is wrong, the room is a perfect sleeping sanctuary, bellies are full, and lights are low… Sometimes, we still can’t sleep.
A drop or 2 of essential oils is like a magic sleeping potion. It’s like something in my kids’ brains goes, “Oh! Ok, that’s going to make me fall asleep.” And we won’t hear another peep! Ha!
It is so, so important for our children’s health to create the best possible sleeping environment for them. Sleeping should be something they enjoy and look forward to!
I’m so glad we had experienced their room for a night so that we could modify their sleeping environment to provide better, more restful sleep for them.
Have you ever discovered things about your child’s room by sleeping in it? Is creating a sleeping sanctuary important to your family?
Edit: You can click here to download the white noise my husband and I use. You can import it into iTunes to convert it to an MP3 or whatever file type you prefer.