The How & Why of Establishing Good Sleep Routines for Your Children
Creating a healthy bedtime routine is a fundamental step in having a nourishing and restful slumber. Children need more sleep than adults, due primarily to the fact that they are still growing and developing, both physically and emotionally. Not only do children need a good quantity of sleep, they also need good quality of sleep. With back to school just around the corner, it’s time to start transitioning your child from the carefree hours of summer to a regimented schedule for the school year.
Take a look at these 6 helpful tips, to make the bedtime switch gradual and pain free!
The Power of Sleep Associations
When it comes to a good sleep routine, establishing healthy sleep associations is a powerful ally. Create a reliable set of steps to follow every night before bed—such as changing into pajamas, brushing teeth, reading a bedtime story, saying goodnight, turning off the lights, and so on—that will cue your child’s brain and body that it’s time to go to sleep.
Consistent Sleep Schedule
Along with creating a set routine leading up to sleepy time, make sure to maintain a consistent bedtime and wake-up time every day, regardless of whether it’s a school day or not. The same goes for your child’s nap schedule, too. (Be sure and check out our post on how many hours of sleep we need.)
No Screen Time One Hour Before Bed
As part of your child’s bedtime routine, plan at least 1 hour of quiet, screen-free time before bedtime—no TV, video games, computers, phones, etc. Instead, let your child enjoy a bedtime story, or listen to some soft, soothing music. (Learn more about how to create your own personal family media use plan from the American Academy of Pediatrics.)
Take this opportunity to read to and with your child. It builds a love for language and stories into your child at an early age. And hearing the soft sound of your voice telling a story just before bedtime will have a soothing effect on your child too, and can lead to more pleasant dreams.
Avoid Sugar and Caffeine Before Bed
Ideally, it’s best to avoid caffeine and sugar from the late afternoon through the evening. Children are sensitive and react strongly to these stimulants, which adversely affect their ability to get a good night’s rest. If your child needs a light snack before bed, consider a glass of milk, crackers or low-sugar cereal. Avoid eating 1 to 2 hours before bed.
Children love to play and move their bodies, and all that wonderful energy needs a healthy outlet. Not only does physical activity improve strength and coordination, but it also fosters emotional well-being and is a life-long healthy habit. The AAP recommends at least 1 hour a day of moderate to vigorous physical activity. Another benefit is that it will help your child to sleep better too!
Create a Soothing Bedroom Environment
Your child’s bedroom should be his or her haven, where she or he can feel safe and calm. At night, keep it as quiet and dark as possible, and control the temperature so it’s not too warm or too cool (68-72 F is ideal). Your child’s bed should feel soft, clean and comfortable, so that means having quality bedding – including soft sheets, the right pillow, and a supportive mattress. Bedtime routines are some of the best times for you to spend quality time with your child! Take advantage of these moments by doing things together like telling bedtime stories, sharing things about your day, answering questions (it’s amazing how philosophical kids can become just before bedtime!), or just cuddling.
Your child isn’t the only one who needs a healthy sleep routine – keeping a regular sleep schedule can help maintain your body’s internal clock and will make your own sleep much more rejuvenating. Empower your child’s sleep habits by being a good example in your own nightly routine. That way, everyone will wake up rested, refreshed and ready to meet the beautiful day ahead!