Tips for Improving your Child’s Sleep
Getting a healthy amount of sleep is essential for your child’s mental and physical development; however, sleep challenges are common in children. Poor sleep can cause problems with academic achievement, social interactions, and behavior. As a parent, making sure your child is getting enough sleep is also important for their memory and overall health. There are many steps that parents can take to improve their child’s sleep.
1. Determine the average number of hours your child should be sleeping each night. Most children require 10-12 hours of sleep per night.
2. Establish a consistent bedtime and wake time for you child. This should be the same on the weekends, as well. If your child takes naps, make sure they are scheduled at regular times.
3. Turn off screens at least 1 hours before bedtime. Screens before bed are linked to bedtime resistance and difficulty falling asleep.
4. Eat the right amount at the right time. Feeling hungry or too full makes it hard for your child to fall asleep.
5. Get plenty of natural light and exercise during the day. Avoid caffeine 6 to 8 hours before bedtime. Be cautious of supplement use (Melatonin). This natural supplement is a potential hormone disruptor and is not recommended for long-term use.
6. Establish a consistent and positive bedtime routine. A routine is important so your child learns limits and expectations. An example routine might include: take a bath, put PJs on, brush teeth, go to the bathroom, and read a book. Once the routine is finished, your child should be tucked in and left alone in the room. Visual schedules can also be helpful in establishing this routine.
7. Relax. You don’t want to rile up your child before they goes to bed. Keep interactions and your child’s bedroom environment calm and quiet.
8. Your child’s bedroom should be a calm, dark, and cool place. Nightlights are okay, as some children may be afraid of complete darkness. Avoid using your child’s bedroom for time-outs and other punishment. You want your child to think of his/her bedroom as a good, relaxing place.
9. Allow your child to fall asleep in his/her own room. It is important for your child to develop independent sleep skills. If you lay down with your child each night until they are asleep, they will likely need you to help them fall asleep again if they wake up.
10. If your child wakes up in the middle of the night (and isn’t sick or in need), simply place them back in bed and tell them it’s time for bed. If you play with your child or provide a lot of attention, they may be motivated to continue to wake up during the night to receive this attention from you.
11. It is ok and often helpful if your child has a favorite stuffed animal, toy, or blanket that she takes to bed. This toy will often help your child accept the nighttime separation from you and can be a source of comfort. This toy or blanket can be incorporated into the bedtime routine.
Adapted from How to ABA, RaisingChildren.net, Nation Wide Children’s Hospital