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Practicing Healthy Sleep Hygiene for Kids: How to Help Your Child Get the Best Sleep

Getting a good night’s sleep is a pivotal part of your child’s whole-body health. Sleep is an important factor in maintaining overall health in both children and adults, practicing good sleep hygiene is one way to make sure your child is getting the most out of their sleep. Practicing sleep hygiene means promoting and establishing bedtime habits and behaviors that nurture and foster a good night’s sleep. Sleep hygiene is all about getting to sleep and staying asleep. Sleep is an essential function of our bodies, and we do not perform or behave at our top capacity when we do not have enough of it, or if the sleep we get is of poor quality.

Healthy sleep is restorative to both body and mind and should be a priority for all age groups.  Sleep helps our minds, and our bodies function better mentally, physically, and metabolically. Our sleep has a direct effect on the mind’s retention ability, our focus, moods, and behavior.

Children who do not get enough sleep can start to lack focus in school. They can start to have shorter attention spans, may start to experience symptoms and behaviors similar to that of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). We have all heard of toddlers and young children being fussy because they do not get enough sleep. The constant need for enough quality sleep does not diminish with age. Children of all ages need to get adequate sleep, if they do not their mental and physical capacities may suffer.

One big thing parents can do to promote healthy sleep for children is to make maintaining healthy and adequate sleep a priority for the whole family. The importance of how sleep affects the overall health of individuals as well as that of the whole family. Set a positive example for your children when it comes to healthy sleep hygiene. If your children see you setting the example of being up all night, they will think that is normal and follow suit. Getting regular, healthy sleep, and practicing good sleep hygiene benefits parent’s mental health as well as their children’s.


15 Tips for Practicing Good Sleep Hygiene with Children

  1. Set a regular bedtime. A very big part of good sleep hygiene is to maintain a regular sleep routine. This means going to bed at the same time every night and waking up at the same time in the morning. According to the Sleep Association, it is advised to keep your schedule at bedtime the same every night, this can be flexible by about 20 minutes. Try to go to bed within 20 minutes before or after your regular bedtime to stay consistent. Bedtime should be at a standard time, which includes weekends and vacations. Children should try to go to bed at the same time if possible. Try not to break their regular routine for more than a day or so if at all. Sticking to the same bedtime and the same bed behaviors every day promotes a regular and healthy sleep cycle.
  2. Another tip to promote healthy sleep is to keep beds for sleeping. That means that beds are not places to play or rough house. This can be something that younger children may struggle with. If the bed is full of toys and stuffed animals it can seem like playtime, not bedtime. Sleeping with one special stuffed animal and a soft blanket is ideal, not a bed full of every Care Bear and stuffed animal one can find. Those can have a special place in your child’s heart and room, just not on the bed at bedtime.
  3. Making sure a child’s bedroom is a comfortable and cozy place that they feel safe in is also especially important to healthy and consistent sleep. Avoid distractions, if they use a clock turn the face away from children so they do not stare at it or become worried about the time. Make sure night lights are dim and warm-colored, these promote healthier sleep, rather than bright white or cool colored lights.
  4. Establish for your child a predictable series of events as a bedtime routine that include quiet calm relaxing activities. This can mean listening to soft music, looking at the stars, reading a book out loud, etc.
  5. Put children to sleep when they are drowsy but still awake, this way they can go through the sleep routine and fall asleep in bed, not having to be moved from somewhere else, which is disruptive and often prevents children from falling back asleep quickly.
  6. Bedtime is not the time to worry about things if you have a child who lays awake at night in bed and worries try to schedule a worrying time for them early in the day. During this time when they are encouraged to discuss and think through their worries and stressors with a parent or trusted adult. This helps avoid the desire to talk about them at bedtime and prevents them from thinking about these things while they lay in bed awake.
  7. Avoid serious conversation topics at bedtime and do not get into a long drawn-out conversation with children when they lay down. If you can answer their question or worry before bed with an easy answer try to, if not acknowledge their feelings and reassure them that you will figure things out in the morning.
  8. Make sure to keep parent checkups after your child lays down short and sweet.
  9. You can encourage your child to share their dreams and nighttime thoughts in a sleep journal. This allows them to share what they experience and get imaginative and helps you track their sleep habits.
  10. advises that children do not watch things that are scary violent upsetting or confusing within 2 hours of their bedtime. This includes news and argumentative or aggressive talk shows, or interest dramas with graphic or upsetting content. Be aware of what adults are watching on TV and on electronic devices because even if children are not watching them, they are in the room and may hear things that can later cause them not to sleep.
  11. Soothing sounds played in your child’s bedroom at night time may help them sleep if they need something other than silence. Sounds from nature sounds of water white noise machines even can help with background and soothing noise to help lure your child to sleep.  A fan, noise machine, or soft music is a better choice than the TV as these are soothing and calm, not over-stimulating as many TV shows and movies can be.
  12. A dim or dark room with the lights off promotes better sleep. Screens from lights contain blue light which will suppress melatonin (a hormone that regulates sleep and wakefulness), so avoiding these types of media screens for about an hour before bedtime is recommended.
  13. Keep electronics out of the bedroom and charge them in a different place so they are out of reach from children. This particular practice will help improve sleep quality for people of all ages.
  14. Room temperatures that are cooler promote better sleep and reduce discomfort itching perspiration warmer temperatures prior to bed will help someone fall asleep more quickly. This is partly why we bathe babies in warm water before they go to bed. Even a warm footbath or just a warm washcloth across your face before bed will help. Keeping your body warm and the room cool will help welcome sleep.
  15. Remember that bedtime is a perfect time to work on self-care and good overall hygiene, including teeth brushing, face washing, and bedtime hair care helps children learn how to take care of themselves.


10 Healthy Sleep Steps You Can Take During the Day

  1. Stay away from anything with caffeine 4 to 6 hours before bedtime and avoid heavy or spicy foods 4 hours before bedtime.
  2. No thought-provoking TV,  or use of mobile devices, video games, and arguments or loud conversations within an hour of bedtime.
  3. Decrease screen time, especially in the hours before bed.
  4. Keep naps short and sweet and do not nap every day. Keep daytime naps to about 30 minutes.
  5. Do not over stimulate, over schedule, or overstress your child. They will not have time to wind down and may become stressed with too much pressure to perform at all their activities.
  6. Bright light in the mornings helps the biological clock get moving in the morning and the low light makes us become tired in the evening. Avoiding bright lights before bed helps the mind calm down. Do more intense exercise and physical activity in the morning and stick to yoga and other slow meditative exercise practices in the afternoon and early evening to avoid over-stimulating yourself close to bedtime.
  7. Try to refrain from strenuous exercise within 2 hours of bedtime.
  8. You can increase your child’s (and your own) physical activity during the day if they are unable to sleep at night. A short evening walk is beneficial in many ways and will help your child expend excess energy.
  9. Do not put babies and young children to bed with a bottle; this causes tooth decay, and the sugar can stimulate them and keep them awake.
  10. Address any breathing issues your child may have. You can use a humidifier or nasal strip if needed to help reduce snoring and aid in better breathing throughout the night. If your child has very loud snoring every night you may need to reach out to your pediatrician if they have a medical condition such as enlarged tonsils, issues with adenoids, sinuses, or other medical concerns that may be contributing to loud snoring or other respiratory issues. Common sleep problems in children include nighttime awakenings, snoring, avoiding going to bed, sleep apnea, loud heavy breathing, nightmares, and bedwetting.


How Much Sleep Should My Child Get?

According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) preschoolers ages, 3 to 5 years generally need between 10 to 13 hours of sleep per night, and school-age children ages 6 to 12 years need between 9 to 12 hours of sleep per night. Teenagers ages 13 to 18 years should get 8 to 10 hours of sleep a night. Adults should try to get at least 7 hours of sleep according to the American Academy of Sleep Medicine.

Talk to your provider if your child has low levels of alertness during the day and continued problems sleeping at night. Your pediatrician can help you find the right option for working through your child’s sleep issues and bedtime concerns. At Premier Pediatrics your child’s health is our top concern. If your child is experiencing sleep issues and concerns, we can help you address them in a comfortable way that is right for your child’s individual needs. Our team is always here for you, so do not hesitate to call.

Practicing Healthy Sleep Hygiene for Kids

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