It’s well established that a child’s development is influenced by adequate sleep. Getting enough sleep can be a challenge for the 15–25%1 of children and teenagers who have trouble falling asleep or staying asleep.
Unable to put their children to sleep, parents may begin to dread night since they don’t know how to help them go off to sleep. Children are not advised to take sleeping drugs, which are routinely used by adults to treat insomnia. A doctor should supervise the use of pharmaceutical sleep aids in children because they have a high risk of negative effects. A doctor should be consulted before using any vitamins or supplements labeled for children because they are not subject to the same FDA scrutiny as pharmaceuticals.
Fortunately, most children with insomnia can be helped by particular behavioral modifications and alterations to their sleeping environment. We’ve put together a list of the most effective ways to get your child to sleep. The advice given here is best suited for children between the ages of two and six. Both babies and teenagers will have their own unique set of concerns to deal with.
You don’t have to complete everything on this large list all at once. It’s advisable to begin with tiny modifications and see how your youngster reacts before making any major adjustments.
The amount of sleep a child needs will depend on their age, genetics, and culture. As a result, not every strategy will be effective with every child, and some degree of trial and error is possible. If you’re patient, your child will eventually master the art of falling asleep on their own and staying asleep all night.
Sleep Hygiene for Kids
The importance of excellent sleep hygiene for children cannot be overstated. Poor sleep hygiene can cause or exacerbate many sleep issues. Consistency is essential when it comes to sleep hygiene. To be effective, sleep strategies must be practiced over and over again.
- People are creatures of habit, thus it is important to establish a daily routine. Your child’s body and mind will be better able to prepare for sleep if you follow a regular bedtime routine2. You can tailor the routine to your child’s needs; nonetheless, it should include three to four peaceful activities such as putting on pajamas and brushing your teeth, followed by either a warm bath or reading a book. When children have a bedtime routine, they are less likely to experience the anxiety that comes with sleeplessness because they are more likely to feel safe and secure.
- To help your child sleep more regularly, create a bedtime routine that matches with your child’s own biological clock. As with school nights, having a set time for bed on the weekends is preferable than having no set time at all. It will be more difficult for children to keep their typical weekday schedules if bedtimes are changed on the weekends.
- Screen curfews are difficult to administer because of the prevalence of screens, but they are well worth it. Melatonin, a sleep-promoting hormone, is suppressed by the blue light emitted by mobile devices, televisions, and tablets. Children may be more sensitive to the effects of artificial light from screens3. Screen time stimulates the brain, making it more difficult to go to sleep. Ideally, electronic devices should not be utilized within an hour of bedtime in the bedroom. Think about implementing the AAP Media Plan4 for your family.
- Physical activity has been shown to help people of all ages sleep better and longer5. At a bare minimum, children should get an hour6 of daily physical activity each day. Avoid strenuous exercise within two hours of going to bed. If you don’t, your youngster may become agitated and have a difficult time falling asleep.
- When children can’t sleep, it’s often because they’re afraid or frightened about what they’ve seen on the television. Sleep problems in youngsters have been related to watching terrifying movies or playing violent video games at night, as well as reading disturbing novels. Try to keep gruesome or scary movies out of your child’s reach if you can.
- Caffeine should be avoided at all costs. As a stimulant, caffeine makes it more difficult to fall asleep and lowers the quality of your night’s sleep. Keep an eye out for hidden sources of caffeine such decaf coffee (which still contains trace levels of caffeine), tea, and chocolate. As little as a few milligrams can have an enormous effect on a small body. Caffeine should not be given to children within six hours of bedtime, if at all possible.
- Sleeping with a pet might disturb your child’s sleep, even if it’s only a snooze. A few nights away from your child’s room may be all that’s needed to see whether that helps. Saying goodnight to pets as part of the nightly routine might help ease the transition.
Making a Sleepy Bedroom
If you want your child to have a good night’s sleep, make sure their room is well-designed. Tensions in the bedroom might make sleep even more difficult for people with insomnia. Your baby’s sleep will be more peaceful if you follow these tips:
- Sleep is disrupted when the room temperature is either hot or too cold; this is because the body and the brain both cool down in preparation for sleep. Keep the temperature at 65 degrees or lower to avoid this.
- Even if the sleeper does not wake up, small sound disruptions can impact the quality of slumber12, even if the sleeper does not wake up at all. Curtains with noise-blocking properties can help reduce street noise. A fan or white noise machine can also be used to block out distracting or unpredictable noises.
- Dim the lights in the house as soon as your child is ready for bed, and make sure the room is as dark as possible. This helps your child’s melatonin levels13 and the body’s internal clock14 to run smoothly. A tiny nightlight is fine if your youngster is terrified of the dark.
- Sense of calm: Lavender15 has minor sedative properties. In order to create a sleep-inducing aroma, consider using essential oils, a diffuser, or a dried potpourri sachet.
Overcoming Bedtime Worry
Unfortunately, anxiety in children is on the rise16. Every age group has been shown to be affected by stress17, therefore reducing stress before bed is beneficial for everyone. Teach your youngster how to deal with their worries by using the following strategies:
- Encourage your child to keep a journal to help him or her process their fears and anxieties. Writing down the nice things that happened in their day might also be helpful. Children will feel more safe if they are encouraged to focus on the good.
- Meditation and other mindfulness techniques have been shown to reduce stress hormones and soothe the nervous system. There are a variety of meditations designed specifically for children and their caregivers. Simple breathing exercises, body awareness exercises, and guided imagery exercises are commonplace. Ideas can be found in books, cassettes, and even smartphone apps.
- Set out an hour or so each day to talk about your issues, but don’t do it before bedtime. A designated time in the day for your children to talk about their worries and how to deal with them should be established. This can help children sleep better at night because they won’t have to worry about anything the night before.
The Art of the Room Check
Even the finest tiny sleepers will occasionally wake up in the middle of the night and demand to be picked up by a parent. It’s okay to attend to your child if they cry out for you. You should, however, do so consciously. Do not succumb to demands at this time because it will enhance stimulation and make it more difficult to fall asleep. Giving your child whatever he or she wants in order to get some shut-eye might also foster a bad habit of relying on parental support.
As a result, you should keep the checks to a minimum. Reassurance that your child is safe and cared for, while also encouraging their ability to self-soothe and sleep on their own are the goals of this method of calming your child’s anxiety. There are some parents who prefer to let their children go back asleep on their own rather than answer a phone call right away.
Consult your child’s doctor if you have any doubts about the appropriateness of your child’s overnight checks.
When To See the Doctor
Your child’s pediatrician should be consulted if they continue to have difficulty sleeping, no matter what you do. Childhood sleep apnea and restless leg syndrome, albeit rare, are two more significant causes of childhood insomnia.
A doctor should be consulted for any of the following reasons:
- Daytime drowsiness that interferes with daily activities
- Snoring or other irregular breathing during sleep that is frequent or severe.
- Possible psychiatric or developmental disorder
- Inquiring about sleeping aids such as medication or supplements
You might benefit from keeping a sleep diary for a few weeks before your doctor’s appointment. This is a nightly log of your child’s bedtime, naps, sleep duration, and other activities. Keeping a sleep diary might help you uncover patterns and potential issues that need to be fixed.
What do you think of this article?