A sleep hygiene for kids is an essential ingredient for healthy development. Follow these tips to help your child sleep better and wake up feeling refreshed.
Here’s a scenario that has happened to thousands of parents: you put your child to sleep at 8 pm, but immediately after you leave him in his room, he’s up and playing. He doesn’t go to sleep before 10:30 pm, or sometimes even later. When he wakes up in the morning, he’s always grumpy and cranky and has some other behavioral issues that you’re certain are due to him not getting enough sleep.
It’s a real-time scenario. In fact, sleep is a powerful restorative process. Children who lack sleep are less able to concentrate, more easily distracted, and more hyperactive.
So, what can you do?
One of the best ways to help your child sleep better is by establishing a healthy sleep hygiene. A healthy sleep hygiene for kids means establishing habits that promote a good night’s sleep, like setting a routine.
Here are five ways how you can do so:
Have a consistent bedtime routine.
A bedtime routine gives your child consistency and safety, knowing what’s to come.
He knows that when you dim the lights and start reading him a story that it’s time to go to dreamland.
- An earlier bedtime.
- Decreased sleep onset latency.
- Reduced nighttime awakenings.
- Increased sleep duration.
The benefits of a bedtime routine go beyond improved sleep. Apart from helping your child sleep more soundly, a bedtime routine can result in improved behavior during the day.
Although you may feel tempted to skip your bedtime routine on the weekends, don’t! Parental inconsistency is often what prevents children from sleeping more healthily. Choose a bedtime routine and stick to it.
However, this doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t incorporate flexibility into your bedtime routine. For example, tell your little one that you can read his favorite book, and he gets to choose whether he wants to read before his bath or after.
Encourage exercise throughout the day.
Your child may struggle to fall asleep if he had been inactive throughout the day.
According to the CDC, preschoolers (ages 3 through 5 years) need to be physically active throughout the day for growth and development. School-aged children require at least 60 minutes of activity or more.
You can encourage your child to do aerobic activities like walking, running, or anything that gets his rate up. Apart from that, you can also include bone-strengthening activities like jumping, climbing stairs, and hiking.
Even if your child doesn’t want to do hiking or running, simply encourage him to play outside with his friends or go for a nice walk every time you can.
However, keep in mind that your child should avoid being overly active in the hours before bed. This is because the heat generated by the muscles when your child does exercise can prevent him from falling asleep.
Create a calm and safe sleeping environment.
Another vital element of a healthy sleep hygiene for kids is a calm and safe sleeping environment.
There are several ways how you can create an environment that’s conducive to sleep. Depending on the needs of your child, you can start by making the room dark by closing the curtains. There are many blackout curtains that you can install in your child’s room that block out sunlight and noise.
Keep the room cool and comfortable. The perfect room temperature for a child is between 65 and 70 degrees Fahrenheit. Some parents dress their kids in thicker pajamas and cover them up with a blanket. But this can become uncomfortable for many children and they might wake up in the middle of the night sweating. If this is the case with your child, try using thinner pajamas and blankets.
Also, many child’s rooms tend to be filled with fun toys that claim attention. If you notice that toys stimulate your child, consider removing the toys from the room before bedtime.
Finally, remember that the bed should be used only for sleeping. It shouldn’t be a place where your little one plays, watches TV, or does homework. If you let your child do other activities in his bed, he’ll start associating his bed with those same activities.
Replace screens with a bedtime story.
When US researchers reviewed more than 60 studies on the effect of screentime on children, they found that more than 90% of times it led to:
- Delayed bedtimes.
- Fewer hours of sleep.
- Worse sleep quality.
A child’s eyes are so sensitive to blue light because their eyes are not yet fully developed.
Another study published in the journal Pediatrics found that children are twice as more vulnerable to blue light than adults. Meaning, a child who’s using his phone before bedtime could lose more sleep than his parents who use the same device in bed.
So, ideally, if you want to encourage a healthy sleep hygiene for your kid, make sure you remove electronic devices from your child’s bedroom. If your child uses a tablet, for example, to fall asleep, replace the tablet with a bedtime story.
Teach your child how to self-soothe.
If your little one is often waking up at night, sometimes even multiple times, it’s crucial that you teach him how to self-soothe. One way of doing so is by using a sleep training technique.
There are many sleep training technique out here, ranging from the Cry-it-out method to the Camping method. The best method for you will depend on your child’s needs and your preference.
Remember that sleep training only works if you’re consistent and stick to it for as long as it takes.
A good way to make sure you stay consistent is to choose a week or two when you and your partner have the time to dedicate to sleep training.
If you notice that the method you chose doesn’t yield results, take a break for a week or two, and try again using a different approach.
If he wakes up at night and wants to sleep in your bed, don’t encourage his behavior. Don’t engage him in a conversation but quietly walk him back to his room.
And when he stays in his bed all throughout the night, praise him for it. It can be verbal praise, or you can reward him by giving him a small prize.