7 Tips and Tricks for Helping Your Child Fall Asleep
Sleep is as important as eating and drinking in the life of children. However, some kids are not getting enough quality sleep that they need to develop and function properly. Two in three children experience at least one sleep problem several times in a week such as going to sleep, snoring, and awakening.
Kids require more sleep than adults, but a lot of them resist going to sleep especially during school nights. Parents have to deal with the difficulty of putting their child to sleep.
How do you get your child go to sleep at night? Here are 7 tips on getting your child have a better sleep.
Set Bed and Wake-up Time
Making sleep a top priority for your child by setting up regular bed and wake-up times as well as making sure that he follows it even on weekends is important. You can tell that your child is getting enough sleep when he falls asleep within 15 to 30 minutes of lying in bed, waking up easily in the morning, and not feeling sleepy during the day.
Making sleep a priority by setting up a schedule can improve your child’s sleep.
Make Bedtime a Routine
Making bedtime a routine can take the stress out of bedtime for you and your child. Creating a bedtime routine eases the transition from being awake up to being asleep by helping your child feel more secured and more comfortable about what they can expect at the end of the day.
Getting your child in a bedtime routine helps him to develop sleep association that helps him prepare for bedtime. The study A Nightly Bedtime Routine: Impact on Sleep in Young Children and Maternal Mood concluded that having a consistent nightly bedtime routine for kids can help improve their sleep, especially wakefulness after sleep, and sleep continuity.
It is a good idea to begin the bedtime ritual with a wind-down period that begins at least 15 to 30 minutes before the actual bedtime schedule. Playing relaxing music, dimming the lights, talking softer, and moving slower are good starting routines. Follow it up with other bedtime routines such as brushing teeth, washing up, and putting on pajamas. You may also read a book, talk about what happened during the day or hear their stories.
Bedtime routines can be cues that your child can pick up as signs that bedtime is already approaching.
Create an Ideal Sleeping Environment
Creating your child’s room as an ideal sleeping environment can help promote sleep. It is best to keep the room dark, quiet, and cool. Some children, especially the younger ones, prefer to sleep with a little light in the room so using a dim light or nightlight as a light source is acceptable.
If your child cannot sleep in silence or you want to draw out some of the noise, you can use a noise machine, a humidifier or a fan to create a rhythmic and steady sound.
Your child’s sleep cycle is also sensitive to temperature. The melatonin levels help in regulating the drop of internal body temperature needed for sleep but regulating the external temperature can also promote deep sleep.
Creating an ideal sleep environment by making sure that the bedroom is dark, quiet, and cool can help your child sleep faster and better.
Turn off Electronics
Turning off or taking away electronics before bedtime can help your child sleep. Electronic devices promote wakefulness. Too much light before bedtime may prevent your child from getting a good night’s sleep.
According to the National Sleep Foundation, even a small electronic device can emit sufficient light to miscue the brain. This can trick the brain into thinking that it needs to stay awake.
Electronic devices should turn off or taken away at least 1 hour before the scheduled bedtime. Remove the televisions, computers, game consoles, and other electronic devices from your child’s room to avoid providing them with possible distractions that you cannot control once you are out of the room.
The light coming from electronic devices negatively impacts the sleep time, sleep quality, as well as the daytime alertness of your child. Taking electronic gadgets before bedtime is necessary to promote sleep.
Reduce Stress and Anxiety
Reducing your child’s stress can help him sleep faster and better. Anxiety symptoms are common in children. 10 to 20% of school-aged children are experiencing anxiety symptoms. Another hormone that plays an important role in sleep is cortisol or the “stress hormone.” When your child’s cortisol levels are high, the body cannot shut down and go to sleep.
Encourage your child to express his anxiety before sleeping. If your child says that he is worried or scared, encourage him. Validate your child’s experience by discussing his emotions and fears. After listening to your child’s experience, help him to solve the problem.
Practicing relaxation exercises with your child can also help reduce stress and anxiety. Take a few slow and deep breaths. Ask your child to imagine himself somewhere relaxing, like a beach or relaxing in a hammock. Listen to the sound of the water, wind or the seagulls flying off in the distance.
Encouraging your child to do these relaxation exercises and to talk about his anxiety and problems can help reduce stress.
Avoid Food and Caffeine
Avoid food and drinks that affect sleep before bedtime is a must. Foods high in sugar and fat increase your child’s energy keeping him more awake and alert. Caffeine is also a stimulant and is not very good for children. However, if you allow your child to drink soft drinks occasionally, make sure that he doesn’t drink any beverages containing sugar and caffeine 3 hours before bedtime.
Snacks are acceptable before sleeping as long as they are healthy and not very filling. If your child asks for a snack or drink before the scheduled bedtime, give him yogurt, grapes, bananas or hard-boiled eggs. These foods are good bedtime snacks to enjoy because they provide the body with melatonin or tryptophan, the natural sleep-aids.
Avoid giving your child foods rich in fat and sugar as well as drinks with caffeine. If snacks cannot be avoided, given them healthier options that promote sleep.
Perform Exercise Routines
Performing exercise routines can stimulate sleep. It is important that your child gets exercise during the day that can help him wind down easier during the night. However, keep the child’s playtime at least 3 hours before he goes to bed or he will feel too stimulated for sleep.
Instead, encourage your child to have at least 15 minutes or more of physical activity throughout the day. Exercise promotes your child’s emotional well-being. Physical activities release brain chemicals that are natural stress fighters. Your child feels happier and more relaxed, helping him sleep better.
Exercising helps your child manage his mood and stress better, making it easier to sleep and stay asleep.
If you already established a consistent bedtime routine and your child is still having difficulties in falling asleep, your child may have a sleep disorder. If your child feels tired easily, experiences difficulties concentrating or have behavioral problems, it could be a sign of an underlying sleep disorder. Talk to a medical professional specializing in sleep disorders immediately to know what the problem is.