Sleep is as natural for humans as breathing, and yet we seem to be getting worse at it. Every year, more people complain about feeling exhausted and stressed out. Even children are finding it harder to get restful, rejuvenating sleep. Unfortunately, this isn’t good news. There are several reasons why sleep is critical for good health, but most importantly is how it affects our brains.
Better sleep helps us reduce stress and anxiety. It promotes focus and mental clarity. Not to mention that a good night’s sleep can improve our mood. Children are especially vulnerable to the highs and lows that come with a poor sleep schedule. But how can you help them fall asleep at a reasonable hour when all they want to do is play on their smartphone or stream TV shows?
We put together 25 of the best tips for a better night’s sleep for your child (and maybe even for you).
1. Pick a Strict Bedtime
Our bodies, no matter what age, respond strongly to a routine. Setting a strict bedtime for your children will help their brains signal to their bodies that it’s time to calm down and prepare to sleep.
2. Don’t Let Them Snooze
As much as we all might love to hit the snooze button for an extra few minutes, it’s actually worse for us. Your child will function much better if you pick the latest wake-up time and get them out of bed right away without allowing them to hit snooze.
3. Include the Weekends
We know Friday and Saturday night are prime time to beg for a later bedtime. If you notice that your child struggles with sleep, make sure to keep their regular bedtime on the weekends. The consistency of a routine will help them get more restful sleep.
4. Create a Wind-Down Routine
Our brains need signals to know when it’s time to prepare for sleep. Our brains also love predictable patterns. This is why routine is so important to getting proper rest. By getting ready the same way every night (think pajamas, brush teeth, storytime, lights out), your child’s brain will know it’s time to relax and stop fighting sleep.
5. Practice Mindful Meditation
Right before your child goes to sleep, take five minutes to practice a mindfulness activity. Much like journaling for adults, it gives them time to process the remaining worries from their day and turns off their racing thoughts.
Studies have found that warm hands and feet are a good indicator of how quickly a person will fall asleep. If you notice that your kids are struggling to fall asleep once they’re in bed, try warming them up by putting on a pair of socks.
7. Keep Their Room Dark
Our bodies are designed to be awake during the daytime and even the faintest hint of daylight can contribute to sleep troubles. Help your kids by making sure their room is nice and dark when it’s bedtime.
8. Paint the Room a Calming Color
Making simple changes to your child’s bedroom can subtly help them wind down at the end of the day. Tranquil colors like dark grey or soft lavender are great for promoting sleep.
9. Keep It Cool
We all know it’s impossible to sleep when you’re hot and uncomfortable. Create a cozy environment by keeping your child’s room at a cool temperature. It may not put them directly to sleep, but it will help them fall asleep faster.
10. Avoid Screen Time After Dinner
While blue tones on a bedroom wall encourage relaxation, blue light from your children’s favorite devices does the exact opposite. Keep your kids screen-free for two hours before bed so their brain has a chance to relax.
11. Try White Noise
The easiest way to test whether your child will respond well to white noise is to throw a fan in their room. The steady background noise might be just the thing that lulls them to sleep.
Get the help of essential oils to help calm your restless child. Specifically, lavender has been proven to put brain waves into a more relaxed state.
13. Low-Sugar Diet
Sugary foods are known to create adrenaline in the body by elevating glucose levels. Give your child the best shot at restful sleep by cutting sugar whenever you can, but especially in the hours before bedtime.
14. Avoid Too Much Water
Getting up to go to the bathroom every few hours is a terrible way to sleep. If you notice your child waking up constantly, try restricting their water intake in the hours before bed.
15. Adjust Their Nap Schedule
Your child may be having a hard time falling asleep at night because they are still energized from the day’s nap. Experiment with different nap schedules to get the perfect routine for restful sleep.
16. Encourage Physical Activity
It’s simple really. Any physical activity will tucker your kids out and help them sleep. Just make sure they have enough time to relax and process their endorphins before bedtime.
17. Avoid Caffeine
Sodas may be a treat for some children but the caffeine can be detrimental to their sleep schedule (not to mention all the sugar). Even apple juice or other fruit drinks can get in the way of their sleep patterns. Stick to only drinking water when you can, especially in the evenings.
18. Plan Dinner Correctly
Trying to fall asleep with a full stomach, before your dinner has been fully digested, is difficult and uncomfortable. Plan to eat dinner earlier if you notice this complaint from your kids.
19. Encourage Self-Soothing
Give your children time to self-soothe while they’re trying to fall asleep. If you can hear them call for you, don’t immediately rush to their bedside. Let them try to fall asleep on their own.
20. Use Comforting Objects
Give your child a soft blanket or stuffed animal to use for comfort when you put them to bed. This is especially helpful in the self-soothing process.
21. Pretend You’re There
For the younger kiddos who want to sleep with their parents, a good alternative is giving them something that smells like you. Whether it’s a blanket or an old t-shirt, offer your child something that reminds them of you without allowing them to actually sleep in your bed.
22. Reward Them
Don’t be afraid to reward good sleep habits just like you would any other behavior. If your child goes a full week without getting out of bed at night to find you, or follows their wind-down routine every day, celebrate!
23. Research the Right Amount of Sleep
Different age groups need different amounts of sleep. Don’t force all your children into the same sleep schedule, research to find what’s right for them.
24. Prove They Are Safe
Darkness can be scary for younger kids and fear makes it almost impossible to fall asleep. Help them relax by reassuring them of all the ways they will be safe throughout the night.
As with all other advice, the best routine is the one that works for your child. Not all of these are going to be a perfect fit for your family, but experiment with these suggestions, and be willing to try new things until you find the right routine.