How to Encourage Positive Sleep Habits with Young Children
How many times have you awoken in the middle of the night because your child was calling your name, or worse, crying? Unfortunately, it is common for children – especially those with chronic health conditions – to have problems falling and staying asleep. The good news is that there are simple ways to encourage positive sleep habits at a young age so your child can enjoy sound sleep throughout his or her lifetime.
Try these tips to encourage positive sleep habits for kids:
- Encourage an early bed time. A bed time between 7:30 and 9:00 p.m. for children 11 years old or younger is ideal. Younger children should enjoy the earlier bed time, while older children can enjoy the latter.
- Help your child wind down. Reading is a perfect activity for kids who need time to wind down before sleep. Read books together or encourage older children to read books on their own for 15 to 30 minutes before lights out.
- Develop a nightly routine and stick to it. Children benefit from rules and routines, which help kids feel safe and know what is expected. Involve your child in making a picture schedule or checklist of nightly activities that need to be accomplished before bed (i.e., brush teeth, put on pajamas, read a book). Make the routine fun and positive.
- Turn off screens at least one hour before bedtime. Whether it is an iPad, TV, phone or video game device, electronic devices need to be shut off to prepare for a resting state. Studies have found that the light emitted from screens can hinder the production of melatonin – the hormone needed to induce sleep.
- Make sure your child gets enough exercise during the day. Expelling energy throughout the day is important for preparing the body for sleep. Consider taking a family walk after dinner or playing physical games or activities like soccer or tag. Outdoor activities and exercise have been shown to benefit sleep patterns.
- Do not allow your child to fall asleep to the TV. Parents sometimes start this habit to encourage children to fall asleep on their own, but falling asleep to the TV can impact REM sleep patterns. Falling asleep with the television on can leave children tired or more apt to struggle behaviorally during the day. Instead of the television, consider a sound machine that emits soothing white noise or replicates the sound of the ocean.
- Have your child go to bed and wake up at that same time every day. Consistent sleep and wake times help to set internal clocks - to train the body and brain for sleep.
Finally, set a positive example for your child by following these suggestions yourself. With time and consistency, your whole family will be sleeping soundly.
Good Shepherd Rehabilitation Hospital Pediatric Unit has a behavioral counselor on staff to help patients and families overcome challenges, such as lack of sleep. For more information, call 1-888-44-REHAB (73422) or contact us online today.