Establishing healthy daytime and evening routines can help your child have a good night’s sleep. And if your child is sleeping well, chances are you might sleep better too. Here are some ideas to get you started.
1. Keep regular sleep and wake times
Help your child go to bed and get up around the same time every day. Keep wake-up times on school days and weekends to within two hours of each other. This can help get your child’s body clock get into a regular rhythm. In the mornings, he should get out of bed when he wakes up, rather than trying to go back to sleep.
2. Avoid daytime naps for older kids
If your child is five years or older, avoid daytime naps. Daytime naps longer than 20 minutes can make it harder for children over five to get to sleep at night, to get into deep sleep, and to wake up in the morning.
3. Relax before bed
A regular bedtime routine of bath, teeth brushing, story and bed help younger children relax and feel ready for sleep. Older children might like to wind down by reading a book or listening to gentle music. Turning off electronics an hour before bed will also help your child relax and fall asleep.
4. Wind down at night
If your child has a busy morning routine, encourage her to use some wind-down time at night to complete morning tasks, such as getting clothes ready for the next day, making lunch, or getting her school bag ready.
Check your child’s sleep environment
5. Make sure your child feels safe at night
If your child feels scared about going to bed or being in the dark, you can praise and reward him whenever he’s brave. Avoiding scary TV shows, movies, computer games or books can help too. Some children with bedtime fears feel better when they have a night light.
6. Check noise and light in your child’s bedroom
A dark, quiet, private space is important for good sleep. You can check whether your child’s bedroom is too light or noisy. It’ll probably help to turn off electronic stimulation in your child’s bedroom at least one hour before bedtime. This includes loud music, mobile phones, computer screens and TV.
Encourage good health and nutrition
7. Eat the right amount at the right time
Make sure your child has a satisfying evening meal at a reasonable time. Feeling hungry or too full before bed can make the body more alert or uncomfortable. This can make it harder to fall asleep and have good quality sleep.
8. Get plenty of natural light in the day
Encourage your child to get as much natural light as possible during the day, especially in the morning. This will help her body produce melatonin at the right times in her sleep cycle. A healthy breakfast also helps to kick-start the body clock.
9. Avoid caffeine
Encourage your child to avoid caffeine – in energy drinks, coffee, tea, chocolate and cola – or avoid offering them in the late afternoon and evening.
10. Do some exercise
Physical activity and exercise help children to sleep longer and better. But if your child is having trouble getting to sleep, discourage active play and sports late at night. The stimulation and increase in body temperature can make it harder to go to sleep.
If worries and anxieties affect your child’s sleep, you could work on the problem together during the day. You could talk about it with your child or he could try writing anxious thoughts in a journal.
Up to 40% of children and teenagers have sleep problems.
Lack of sleep affects children and adults in different ways, and can have a negative effect on behaviour, emotions, attention, social relationships and school or work performance.
Tip: Seek advice from a health care professional if you’re concerned that problems with sleep, however mild, are affecting your child’s wellbeing, schoolwork or relationships. Also seek help if the problems are making your child anxious, or if they go on for more than 2-4 weeks.
© Raising Children Network Limited, reproduced with permission.
Resources & Links:
HealthLink BC: Sleep: Helping Your Children—and Yourself—Sleep Well