A good night’s sleep is about getting to sleep, staying asleep and getting enough good-quality sleep.
Getting to sleep
Most children fall asleep within 20 minutes of going to bed. How long it takes to get to sleep can depend on how sleepy your child’s body is, and also on her daytime and bedtime routine. Some bedtime routines help your child wind down before bedtime, so she can fall asleep more easily.
During the night, your child’s body cycles between light sleep and deep sleep. He wakes up briefly after periods of light sleep and probably doesn’t even notice. To stay asleep, he needs to fall back to sleep quickly after these brief waking episodes.
Getting good-quality sleep
Good-quality sleep is about getting enough deep sleep and not waking too often. Your child needs deep sleep because it’s more restful than light sleep. Your child will spend more time in deep sleep and probably wake less often if he can relax before bedtime.
Sleep Tips for Children
- Maintain a consistent bedtime and awaking time. Your child’s biological clock has a strong influence on her wakefulness and sleepiness. When you establish a set time for bedtime and wake up time you “set” your child’s clock so that it functions smoothly.
- Make sure your child feels safe at night
If your child feels scared about going to bed or being in the dark, you can praise and reward him whenever he’s brave. Avoiding scary TV shows, movies and computer games can help too. Some children with bedtime fears feel better when they have a night light.
- Check noise and light in your child’s bedroom
A dark, quiet, private space is important for good sleep. Check whether your child’s bedroom is too light or noisy for sleep. Blue light from televisions, computer screens, phones and tablets might suppress melatonin levels and delay sleepiness. It probably helps to turn these off at least one hour before bedtime.
- Avoid the clock
If your child is checking the time often, encourage her to move her clock or watch to a spot where she can’t see it.
- Eat the right amount at the right time
Make sure your child has a satisfying evening meal at a reasonable time. Feeling hungry or too full before bed can make your child more alert or uncomfortable. This can make it harder for him to get to sleep. In the morning, a healthy breakfast helps to kick-start your child’s body clock at the right time.
- Encourage regular daily naps. Daily naps are important. An energetic child can find it difficult to go through the day without a rest break. A nap-less child will often wake up cheerful and become progressively fussier or hyper-alert as the day goes on. Also, the length and quality of naps affects night sleep – good naps equal better night sleep.
- Set your child’s biological clock. Take advantage of your child’s biology so that he’s actually tired when bedtime arrives. Darkness causes an increase in the release of the body’s sleep hormone — the biological “stop” button. You can align your child’s sleepiness with bedtime by dimming the lights during the hour before bedtime.
- Exposing your child to morning light is pushing the “go” button in her brain — one that says, “Time to wake up and be active.” So keep your mornings bright!
- Develop a consistent bedtime routine. Routines create security. A consistent, peaceful bedtime routine allows your child to transition from the motion of the day to the tranquil state of sleep.
- Create a cozy sleep environment. Where your child sleeps can be a key to quality sleep. Make certain the mattress is comfortable, the blankets are warm, the room temperature is right, pajamas are comfy, and the bedroom is welcoming.
- Teach your child how to relax. Many children get in bed but aren’t sure what to do when they get there! It can help to follow a soothing pre-bed routine that creates sleepiness. A good pre-bed ritual is story time. A child who is listening to a parent read a book or tell a tale will tend to lie still and listen. This quiet stillness allows him to become sleepy.
- Work with these eight ideas and you’ll see improvements in your child’s sleep, and yours too.
- Put kids to sleep drowsy, but awake.The ideal time for a child to go to bed is when they are drowsy, but still awake. Allowing them to fall asleep in places other than their bed teaches them to associate sleep with other places than their bed.
- Cuddle them up with a stuffed animal or soft blanket.Giving a child a security object can be a good transition to help them feel safe when their parent(s) isn’t/aren’t there. Try to incorporate a doll, toy, or a blanket to comfort them when it’s time for bed.