How to Help Your Child Get a Good Night’s Rest
Health, Wellness, & Safety
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When your child isn’t getting a good night’s sleep, it usually means you aren’t either. Whether your child is having a hard time falling asleep or staying asleep, one of the first steps is to make sure that you are practicing good sleep hygiene. It’s a funny name, but “Sleep Hygiene” simply refers to the environmental and timing factors that help us fall and stay asleep. Here is a short list of “Good Sleep Hygiene Practices” for your child or for you.
- Consistent sleep schedule. Go to bed and wake up in the morning at the same time every day. Unfortunately, for some people, relaxing the routine on weekends can throw off their body clock for several days, so consider trying to keep bedtimes the same every day if you are having difficulties.
- Room Environment. It is helpful if your bedroom is dark, does not have a screen on, does not have much noise, and is a comfortable temperature. Check the bedding, too—personal preferences can make a difference in comfort.
- Pre-bedtime activities. Some activities help with sleep, like a warm bath, quiet times, books, and soft and soothing personal interactions. Some activities make it harder to fall asleep, like watching TV, playing video games, strenuous exercise, stressful conversations, high energy games, or eating a big meal. (FYI parents: alcohol and caffeine—including, sadly, chocolate, are shown to make sleep quality worse.)
- Pre-bedtime thoughts. What’s running through your mind as you lay in bed? If it’s a list of to-do items or worries or upsets from the day, those unhappy thoughts can keep you awake, or stick with you at night and contribute to poor sleep. Try to gently guide your thoughts on to more peaceful matters. Children will often need someone with whom they can briefly talk things out, or write them briefly in a journal, or tell their worries to a worry doll.
- The pace of your body. Try to help your body to slow down and begin relaxing prior to sleep. A warm bath, peaceful and slow movements, sitting down for a quiet book or rocking or snuggling… Whatever we can do to help the body relax is likely to translate into better, higher-quality, easier, longer sleep.
- Throughout the day. Make sure that your child gets time outdoors—natural light helps regulate our body rhythms. Also, children need vigorous exercise every day—time outside to run around and play. Some people find it helpful to limit activities done IN the bed (like watching TV or reading or playing) so that the brain automatically associates sleep with being in the bed.
Everyone’s body is different, so some of these items will be more important for you or your child than others—consider experimenting to find the ones that make the biggest impact. Also consider sharing this information with your child and letting her choose which ones to experiment with first. Children love having a sense of ownership over changes to their schedule and routines. Good luck, sweet dreams, and sleep well.