Ways to improve your child’s sleep

Last Updated on September 28, 2021

Sleep is an essential part of maintaining good health. However, problems with falling asleep and staying that way aren’t just issues that come with adulthood. Kids can also have trouble getting enough rest, and when they can’t sleep, neither can you.

Bedtime can turn into a battle zone if the little ones aren’t settling down and wanting to go to bed. The good news is, there are ways for you to solve those problems, and that’s why in today’s article, we’ll be discussing the best sleep tips for children. That way, you will learn how to fight the battle and, most importantly, win!

Ways to improve your child’s sleep

Ways to improve your child's sleep

It is well established that good sleep is a crucial component in a child’s development. However, getting enough rest can feel daunting for 15 to 25% of kids and teens who struggle to fall or stay asleep.

It can be difficult to help your child nod off and sleep soundly at night. Sleeping pills, commonly used with adults, are highly discouraged with children. In addition, there is a risk of side effects when using pharmaceutical sleep aids in children, so they should only be prescribed under the direction of a doctor. We advise you to consult a doctor before using vitamins and supplements as well since the FDA doesn’t control them the same way it does drugs.

Every child’s sleep needs are different based on age, genetics and even cultural differences. Not all approaches will work well for every kid, meaning you shouldn’t be afraid of trial and error. Your patience will be rewarded later on as your child learns to sleep alone. 

1. Set a bedtime

School-age children need between 9 to 11 hours of sleep per night. There is often a lot of variability in sleep needs and patterns in kids. Most children have patterns that don’t change much, no matter what you do. The early birds will still rise early even if you put them to bed later, and the ones that stay up later won’t fall asleep until their bodies are ready.

It is vital for parents to work with their children to set a responsible sleep schedule that will encourage them to get enough sleep and be awake on time while maintaining good sleep hygiene. If you want to read more helpful information and advice for parents, make sure to check our guide on ’10 Sleep Tips for Parents.’

2. Set a wake-up time

Set a wake-up time with your child in mind, based on how much sleep they need and when they go to bed. We suggest you try and create an early wake-up routine in the preschool days to prevent stress for yourself as a parent down the road. For it to work, you need to be consistent with the schedule. Allowing your child to sleep for longer on weekends is a nice thing, but they could end up not sleeping properly in the long run.

Those extra hours of rest will make it hard for their little bodies to feel tired when it’s bedtime. So if you can make wake-ups and bedtimes the same within an hour or so every day (including weekends and holidays), your life will be a whole lot easier.

3. Create a Routine

People are creatures of habit. A consistent bedtime routine will help your little one’s body and mind know that it’s time to settle down and prepare for rest. The actual routine could be specific to your child, but if it takes around 20 minutes, it should include a warm bath (or shower), brushing teeth, putting on PJs, and reading a book. Bedtime routines help kids sleep by making them familiar with what’s going on in their bedroom.

4. Implement a screen curfew

Melatonin plays an important role in the sleep-wake cycles. When melatonin levels are at their highest, most individuals become sleepy and are ready for bed. However, blue light from a TV screen, smartphone, or laptop can interfere with the production of the hormone melatonin.

A study suggests watching tv, playing video games, or scrolling the web before bed keeps your kids up an extra 30 to 60 minutes. That’s why we recommend you make the bedroom a screen-free zone at least an hour before bedtime. When in your child’s room, don’t carry your phone in or put it on silent. Most sleep experts recommend you read to your child instead of letting them play with electronics.

5. Reduce stress before bedtime

Another hormone that plays a huge role in your child’s rest is cortisol. It’s also known as the ‘stress hormone.’ High cortisol levels can affect how your kid’s body shuts down and goes to sleep. In order to prevent stress or at least reduce it, you should stick to a pre-bedtime routine. This is a preventative measure that can make it easier for your little bundle of joy to fall asleep. Check our guide on ‘How does stress affect sleep?’ for more info on the subject.

Sleep advice for children

6. Create a sleep-inducing environment

Optimizing your child’s bedroom environment is an essential part of inducing quick and seamless shuteye. An unwelcoming bedroom makes it harder to sleep, especially for those struggling with a sleeping disorder such as insomnia. Here are some tips that can help you create the perfect sleep setup for your little one:

  • Room Temperature – both the body and brain cool down in preparation for rest, which can be disrupted by a hot bedroom. The thermostat should be set to 18 degrees Celsius if you want to avoid this. If your little one is warm, they will toss and turn all night, which can lead to sleep disruptions and constant wakings. 
  • Noise – sound disturbances can affect the quality of slumber. That’s why you should consider noise-blocking curtains, earplugs or white noise machines to cut down on outside noise. You can also use a fan to drown out unpredictable or distracting sounds.
  • Light  –  As night approaches, it is a good time to dim indoor lights and keep your child’s bedroom darker. This encourages healthy melatonin levels and supports your child’s biological clock. In addition, a small nighttime light can be used if your child is afraid of the dark.
  • Smells – Calming, soothing scents like lavender can have mild sedative effects. You could use them as an essential oil or a room diffuser. Aromatherapy has grown in popularity in recent years, and today it’s widely used around the world for both adults and children. 

7. Keep naps early and short

The majority of the children stop napping by the time they are between 3 to 5 years old. If your child is over five and is still napping during the day, we suggest you try and keep the naps short and no later than early afternoon. It is harder for children to sleep in the night if they’ve had longer and later naps.

8. Help alleviate fears

If your child is afraid to go to bed or fears the dark, you can praise them and reward them whenever they are brave. The avoidance of scary TV shows, movies and computer games can be a help as well. Some children with bedtime fears feel better if they have a night light.

Also, if you want to address ghosts and other scary things with your child, make sure to mention that there are not any ghosts hiding in the closer or under their bed at night. If simple reassuring doesn’t work, you can use a toy to guard the room and spray the room with ‘monster spray’ before bed. Feel free to get creative if it means your child will feel safer and calmer before bedtime. 

9. Exercise

Physical activity has been proven to help people of all ages fall asleep faster and stay asleep. Children should be exercising for at least an hour per day, so they feel sleepier when it’s time for bed. However, make sure you avoid vigorous activity within 2 hours of sleep because strenuous exercise can be a stimulant, meaning your child may feel wound-up and find it harder to fall asleep.

10. Speak with a doctor

It is possible that your plans don’t yield the results you would like. But this is parenthood! If your child has trouble sleeping, has persistent nightmares, snores or breathes into their mouth, they might have a sleep disorder. If you have any concerns about their sleeping habits, talk to your doctor. There are various suggestions that they can give you to help your whole family get a good night’s sleep. Don’t be afraid to ask for help!

Bottom line

Establishing a stable sleep schedule and pre-bed routine can help cut down on night-to-night variability in sleep. Also, having good sleep hygiene can do wonders. It is easier for the little ones to fall asleep and stay that way when they have an opportunity to use up their energy during the day while having a calming environment at night.

We hope we were able to answer the how and why when it comes down to ‘Ways to improve your child’s sleep’, and now it’s our turn to hear from you if any questions regarding the subject were left unanswered. Also, if you want to share some information, we would gladly hear about it in the comments below.

Isabelle Harris
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