As fall begins, parents with school-age children may once again have to make adjustments to bedtime routines and schedules. In prior posts, we have covered how many hours of sleep are needed by children and teenagers. In this article, we will share 12 strategies that can help your child (and you) sleep better.
Sleep is restorative to our bodies and minds. Enough sleep will help our children have the energy they need for school. Quality sleep will help them focus and be in a better mood all day long. Healthy bedtime routines and a sleep-friendly bedroom can help your child fall asleep more easily and stay asleep at night.
1. Set Up a Healthy Bedtime Routine
Decide when you need to get up. It will be easier to decide what time your children need to go to bed if you know what time they have to get up in the morning. Be consistent with sleep and wake times. If the times are set, you can avoid the nighttime debate and struggle. If necessary, set an evening alarm to help everyone know that the bedtime routine is beginning. It may eliminate arguing or begging at bedtime - after all, the alarm has spoken.
2. Design a Sleep-Friendly Bedroom
Setting up your child’s bedroom for relaxation and rest is an excellent way to encourage a better night’s sleep. Soothing items, like a weighted blanket or a weighted stuffed animal, can help make the difference between a teary bedtime routine and a smooth one. To learn more, read our article on 11 Ideas for designing a sleep-friendly bedroom for your child.
3. Prep Early
Prepare as much as possible the night before. Pack healthy lunches and snacks and store in the fridge. Charge i-pads and organize school papers, desks, and backpacks in the evening. Pick out clothing for the next day and prepare a relaxing bath or nudge your older child to take a shower to unwind before bed.
4. Plan for One on One Time
Start your bedtime routine a little early so that you can have quality one-on-one time with your little one. Read them a bedtime story, talk about the next day and any activities that are planned: doctor’s appointments, errands, grocery shopping, and any afterschool activities. The more you can do to prepare them and yourself for the next day, the smoother the next morning will go.
5. Limit Screen Time Before Bed
The Cleveland Clinic warns that screen time usage at night can stimulate the brain and cause us and our children to feel more awake. The bright light from screens suppresses melatonin (the hormone responsible for controlling the sleep-wake cycle). It also throws off our circadian rhythm, and delays REM sleep.
To prevent blue light from computer screens, i-pads, phones and TVs at night delaying sleep and suppressing melatonin levels, turn off screens at least one hour before bedtime. Children may struggle with impulse control. It’s always a good idea to keep screens out of your child’s bedroom at night to eliminate any temptation.
6. Help Your Child Feel Safe and Secure
Nighttime fears can sabotage your bedtime routine, mess up a good night’s rest and stress out the whole family. If your little one feels scared about going to bed, a nightlight can help. Avoid scary movies, TV shows and video games.
7. Encourage Thankfulness and Mindfulness
Help your child to focus on the good each night before bed. Writing a list of things your child is thankful for can lift your child’s mindset as he or she prepares for sleep. Keeping a gratitude journal is an easy way to focus on the positive.
Research suggests that being grateful increases our happiness. When our children think about the things they are thankful for, it helps them relax, reduces stress, focuses their minds on uplifting thoughts and can help them sleep better.
Practicing mindfulness is an excellent tool for mental and emotional health at any age. Be in the moment. Let go of the past and choose not to worry about the future. Breathe. Focus on the now and relax.
8. Hide the Clock
As children become more self-aware, they may worry at night that if they do not fall asleep immediately they will be exhausted the next day. They may keep glancing at the clock to see what time it is and then worry that they are not asleep yet. Checking the clock often and worrying about the time increases anxiety and may prevent them from falling asleep. If your child is overly anxious about the time, move the clock to a place where it cannot be seen from the bed or remove it from the room altogether.
9. Make Your Child’s Bed a Cozy, Soothing, Sensory Delight
Set up your child’s bed for relaxation. Limit the number of stuffed animals so there is plenty of room for your kiddo. Add two types of pillows so your little one has an option for head and neck comfort. If your child likes sleeping with lots of blankets on top, you may want to invest in a weighted blanket. Research has shown that weighted blankets help people fall asleep faster and sleep better through the night.
Choose soft, cool sheets that feel comforting to the touch. A stretchy compression bedsheet made from nylon and spandex can provide your child with a relaxing, fun, comforting way to self-soothe at night. Parents across the country are sharing that they are having easier bedtimes and fewer struggles, hearing more giggles and loving the fact that their children are sleeping better with a Huggaroo Pouch. Here is a video about the Huggaroo Pouch sensory bed sheet.
10. Keep the Bedroom Cool and Pleasant
Warm temperatures can make falling asleep a struggle. According to healthline.com, the optimal bedroom temperature for sleeping is 65 degrees Fahrenheit.
11. Establish a Healthy Routine for Meals and Snacks
If your child is hungry at bedtime it will be hard to fall asleep. Provide healthy, nutritious, filling foods for dinner and evening snacks. If given the option, many of our little ones would choose junk food. Limit accessibility to these items and promote whole foods rather than processed foods.
If you have dinner or large snacks too late in the evening, children may struggle to sleep because they are uncomfortable and overstuffed. Move dinnertime earlier in the evening if you can. Avoid caffeine and large servings of sugar in the late afternoon and evening.
12. Go outside
Getting plenty of natural light in the daytime is essential. Ten minutes of early morning light can help your child feel more alert, awake and cheerful for the day. Natural light in the morning suppresses melatonin and jumpstarts the day on a brighter note.