It’s well accepted that a child’s development is greatly aided by a good night’s sleep. For the 15–25% of children and teenagers who have trouble falling asleep or staying asleep, getting enough sleep can seem impossible.
Parents may come to dread bedtime because they don’t know what to do to help their child go asleep and stay asleep. Children are not advised to take sleeping drugs, which are routinely used by adults to treat insomnia. Children should only be given pharmaceutical sleep aids under the supervision of a doctor due to the potential for serious negative effects. You should always see a doctor before taking vitamins and supplements, even if they are labeled as safe for children.
Fortunately, most children with insomnia can be helped by particular behavioral modifications and alterations to their sleeping environment. We’ve put together a list of the best ways to get your kids to sleep soundly. Toddlers and young adolescents will benefit most from the advice provided in this article. Each age group, from newborns to adolescent boys and girls, has its own unique set of concerns.
You don’t have to complete everything on this large list all at once. Focus on a few tiny changes, give them time to work, and then adapt your strategy based on how your child responds to those changes.
A child’s sleep requirements will fluctuate depending on their age, genetics, and cultural background. There may be some trial and error involved in deciding which strategy is best for each youngster. Once they learn how to go asleep on their own and stay asleep through the night they’ll be grateful for your patience.
Sleep Hygiene for Children
When it comes to a child’s well-being, effective sleep hygiene is essential. Poor sleep hygiene can cause or exacerbate many sleep issues. Consistency is the key to good sleep hygiene. To be effective, sleep strategies must be practiced over and over again.
- People are creatures of habit, thus it is important to establish a daily routine. You can help your child prepare for sleep by establishing a consistent bedtime routine. You can tailor the routine to your child’s needs; nonetheless, it should include three to four peaceful activities such as putting on pajamas and brushing your teeth, followed by either a warm bath or reading a book. The familiarity and comfort of bedtime routines counteracts the uncertainty of sleeplessness in youngsters.
- Decide on a Bedtime: With the help of a sleep plan, you may help your child sleep more regularly by synchronizing with his or her internal biological clock. Try to maintain the same bedtime on weekends as you do on school evenings to get the most benefit out of sleep routines. In order to avoid disrupting their typical weekday routines, youngsters will have a harder time adjusting to new bedtimes on the weekends.
- Put Screen Time Limits in Place: The prevalence of screens makes it difficult to put this guideline into practice, but it is well worth the effort. Mobile devices, TVs, and tablets all generate a form of blue light that interferes with the production of the sleep-inducing hormone melatonin. Computer screens may have a negative impact on children’s eyesight. As a result, it becomes more difficult to get a good night’s sleep when using a screen. It is best to keep electronic gadgets out of the bedroom and avoid using them less than an hour before going to sleep. Consider implementing the American Academy of Pediatrics’ family media plan.
- Physical activity has been shown to hasten the onset of sleep and keep it longer in persons of all ages. The majority of children require at least an hour of physical activity each day. Avoid strenuous exercise within two hours of going to bed. If you don’t, your youngster may become agitated and have difficulty falling asleep.
- When children can’t sleep, it’s often because they’re afraid or frightened about what they’ve seen on the television. Children who watch or play violent or terrifying movies, TV shows, video games, or even books in the evening are more likely to have sleep problems. Try to keep gruesome or scary movies out of your child’s reach if you can.
- Caffeine should be eliminated from your diet: It’s a no-brainer, really. As a stimulant, caffeine makes it more difficult to fall asleep and lessens the quality of your sleep. You should also be on the lookout for less obvious sources of caffeine, such as tea, decaffeinated coffee (which still contains trace quantities of caffeine), and chocolate. Toxic effects can be felt at small doses of caffeine. Ideally, you should avoid giving your child caffeine within six hours of bedtime, but if you must, do so in moderation.
- Sleeping with a pet can disturb a child’s sleep, especially if the animal makes noises or moves around in the middle of the night. To try whether a few nights away from your child’s room helps, put your pet in a separate room. Pet goodbyes should be incorporated into children’s evening rituals.
Making a Sleepy Bedroom
Improving your child’s sleeping quarters is a crucial step in ensuring that he or she gets a good night’s rest. An uncomfortably hot or cold bedroom might make it even more difficult for insomniacs to fall asleep. Here are some ideas to help you create the ideal sleeping environment for your child:
- In order to prepare for sleep, the body and brain cool down, and a stifling bedroom might interrupt this process. To avoid this, keep the temperature at 65 degrees or lower.
- Noise: Even if a person does not wake up because of a minor sound disturbance, research shows that it can have a negative impact on the quality of one’s sleep. Consider installing noise-blocking curtains to reduce the noise pollution from passing traffic. A fan or white noise machine can also be used to block out distracting or unpredictable noises.
- You can help your child get a good night’s sleep by turning down the lights in their room before they go to sleep. This aids your child’s internal biological clock by increasing melatonin levels. A tiny nightlight is fine if your youngster is terrified of the dark.
- Lavender, for example, has a mild sedative effect when inhaled. Use a diffuser, essential oils, or dried potpourri sachets to create a sleep-inducing ambiance in your bedroom.
Overcoming Bedtime Worry
Anxiety in children is on the rise, unfortunately. Anyone’s sleep is affected by stress, therefore reducing stress before going to bed is a good idea. Using these strategies, you can help your child deal with their anxieties:
- Encourage your child to write down their anxieties in a journal to help them deal with them. Writing about the nice things that happened during the day might also be beneficial for them. Children will feel more comfortable if we emphasize the good things in life.
- Meditation and other mindfulness techniques have been shown to relax the nervous system and reduce the production of stress hormones. For parents and children, there are various kid-friendly meditations. Simple breathing exercises, self-awareness exercises, or guided visualization exercises are all common examples of this type of training. There are plenty of resources out there that can help you come up with creative solutions.
- You can have a “Worry Time,” but don’t do it right before night. A designated time in the day for your children to talk about their worries and how to deal with them should be established. As a result, youngsters are less likely to go to bed stressed.
The Art of the Room Check
Even the finest tiny sleepers will occasionally wake up in the middle of the night and demand to be picked up by a parent. It’s okay to attend to your child if they cry out for you. You should, however, do so with purpose. Giving in to requests at this point will make it more difficult for you to fall asleep. In order to avoid reinforcing a harmful habit of relying on parental aid for sleep, it is important to fulfill your child’s every request.
Instead, limit the checks to a minimum and make them easy to read. The goal is to help your child feel secure and cared for while also encouraging them to learn to soothe themselves and go to sleep on their own. Waiting a few seconds before answering a phone call is a common practice among parents who want to give their children the opportunity to fall asleep on their own.
Consult your child’s doctor if you have any doubts about the appropriateness of your child’s overnight checks.
When To See the Doctor
There may be a medical reason why your child is having problems sleeping despite your best attempts. Childhood sleep apnea and restless leg syndrome are less frequent, but they can be more serious causes of insomnia in children.
A doctor should be consulted for any of the following reasons:
- Sleep deprivation during the daytime
- Snoring or other irregular breathing during sleep that is frequent or severe.
- Psychological or developmental disorder is suspected.
- Thinking about sleeping pills or supplements?
You might benefit from keeping a sleep diary for a few weeks before your doctor’s appointment. This is a nightly log of your child’s bedtime, naps, length of sleep, and other activities, all of which may be viewed at any time. A sleep diary is a useful tool for spotting patterns and identifying issues that need to be addressed.
How to sleep better for children and teenagers?
1. Set up a bedtime routine
Good sleep patterns can be achieved by adhering to a consistent bedtime schedule. Younger children can benefit from a nighttime ritual that includes a bath, reading a tale, and going to sleep. If your child is older, you may want to incorporate a quiet conversation with you about their day, followed by some quiet time to wind down before bedtime.
2. Relax before bedtime
It’s a good idea to try to help your child unwind before bed. Reading a book, listening to soft music, or practising deep breathing might help older children relax. If it takes more than 30 minutes for your child to drift off to sleep, he or she may want more time to wind down before you turn out the lights.
3. Keep regular sleep and wake times
Your youngster should have a consistent bedtime and wakeup time each day. Using this method helps to maintain your child’s body clock in sync. Weekends, vacations, and school days are all wonderful times to use it.
4. Keep older children’s naps early and short
The majority of children cease napping between the ages of three and five. You should attempt to limit your child’s nap to no more than 20 minutes and no later than early afternoon if he or she is over five years old. A child’s ability to fall asleep at night may be compromised if their naps are too long or too late.
5. Make sure your child feels safe at night
Children who are afraid of the dark can benefit from being praised and rewarded for their bravery. It’s also a good idea to stay away from scary movies, TV shows, and video games on the computer or television. A night light might help some children overcome their nighttime anxieties.
6. Check noise and light in your child’s bedroom
To ensure a good night’s sleep, make sure that your child’s room is not too bright or noisy. Melatonin levels are suppressed and sleepiness is delayed by blue light from televisions, computers, phones, and tablets. Young children can be affected by bright light in the hour leading up to bedtime.
It is beneficial for:
- At least an hour before going to sleep, turn off your electronic gadgets.
- Your child’s bedroom should be free from screens at night.
- Children in preschool and younger should have the lights dimmed an hour before bedtime.
It’s better to go with a warm-colored globe for your child’s nightlight than a white, cool-colored globe.
7. Avoid the clock
Encourage your child to move the clock or watch to a place where they can’t see it from bed if they frequently check the time.
8. Eat the right amount at the right time
Ensure that your child receives a nutritious dinner at a decent hour every day. Your youngster may be more awake or uncomfortable if he or she is hungry or overly full before going to sleep. As a result, it may be difficult for your youngster to go asleep at night. A nutritious meal helps your child’s internal clock get going in the morning at the proper time.
9. Get plenty of natural light in the day
When feasible, allow your youngster to spend the first few hours of the day in direct sunlight. Melatonin is suppressed by bright light. This aids in keeping your child up and alert throughout the day, while also making them tired at night.
10. Avoid caffeine
Energy drinks, coffee, tea, chocolate, and cola all contain caffeine. Do not offer these things to your youngster in the evening or in the late afternoon.