Good sleep hygiene is just as important for kids as it is for adults. Here are a few strategies and habits your family can practice to promote good quality sleep. They may be simple, but consistency is the key to success.
Create a routine
Our brains are sensitive and responsive to environmental cues and schedules. The body has its own internal clock that naturally responds to the Earth’s 24-hour cycle. This is called the circadian rhythm, and our habits as well as environmental or societal factors can either work with it or against it. Creating a bedtime routine is one of the best ways to keep your body’s clock on track.
Customize your routine to your children so that it supports the ways they naturally like to wind down. Try to make sure screens are not involved in the bedtime routine, as their blue light signals to the brain that it is time to wake up instead of time to go to sleep.
Don’t make the routine too overwhelming. It should be a simple series of about three to four steps that cue one another. For example, putting on pajamas can be the step that next cues brushing teeth. After brushing teeth, it could be time for a story or for listening to some relaxing music. Keeping these steps in the same order each time will make them more effortless over time and will reduce fights when it is time to turn the lights out.
Ensure they get enough sleep
The National Sleep Foundation recommends that children ages 3-5 get around 10-13 hours of sleep per day, whereas kids from 6-13 need about 9-11. Teens 14-17 years old are recommended to get 8-10 hours of sleep per day and young adults between the ages of 18-25 should get around 7-9 hours.
Depending on your child’s age, schedule their bedtime at a time that ensures they will be able to get enough sleep by the time they usually wake up or by the time they need to wake up for school or day care. Factor in extra time needed to fall asleep, which should be around 10-20 minutes.
Create a soothing environment
When it nears a few hours before bedtime, start turning off overhead lights around the house and instead rely on dim and warm accent lights. Try to turn off screens a few hours before bedtime as well as the light from screens can delay your and your child’s ability to fall asleep. Close window curtains to block out outside noises and light. Use fun night lights in your child’s room that help them feel cozy and make bedtime feel special, but try to make a habit of turning them off before it is time to fall asleep .
If your child is afraid of the dark, you can leave a night light on as long as it is dim. If your child is afraid of monsters or other imaginary creatures, be sure to acknowledge their fears and reassure them that nothing is there. One fun way to combat fear of things that go bump in the night is to create a pretend can of “monster spray” and go around the room, in the closet and under the bed, and spray it to deter any monsters from sneaking around. You can also talk about these fears during the day and check the areas they are scared of in order to build their confidence that there is everything is safe and boogeyman-free.
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