Helping your little one get a healthy night’s sleep
We often talk about the struggles of getting our teenagers to sleep but what about our little ones? Establishing positive sleep habits early for our kids will result in healthier bodies and minds as they grow. The following recommendations will help your child get the best sleep possible, making it easier to fall asleep and stay asleep.
- Sleep schedule: Your child’s bedtime and wake time should be about the same time every day, with no more than one hour’s difference in bedtime and wake time between school nights and non-school nights. Make your child’s bedtime early so they can get enough sleep.
- Naps: Naps should be geared to your child’s age and developmental needs. However, avoid very long or too many naps. Too much daytime sleep can result in your child sleeping less at night.
- Bedtime routine: Your child should have a 20 to 30-minute bedtime routine that is the same every night. The routine should include calm activities, such as reading a book or talking about the day, occurring in the room where your child sleeps.
- Evening activities: The hour before bed should be a quiet time. Your child should not get involved in high-energy activities, such as rough play or playing outside, or stimulating activities such as computer games.
- Bedroom: Your child’s bedroom should be comfortable, quiet, and dark. A nightlight is fine, as a completely dark room can be scary for some children. Your child will sleep better in a room that is cool (less than 75°F). Also, avoid using your child’s bedroom for “time out” or other punishment. You want your child to think of their bedroom as a good place, not a bad one.
- Snack: Your child should not go to bed hungry. A light snack (such as milk, crackers, fruit/veggies) before bed is a good idea. Heavy meals within an hour or two of bedtime, however, may interfere with sleep.
- Caffeine: Your child should avoid caffeine for at least three to four hours before bedtime, although it’s best to avoid completely. Caffeine can be found in many types of soda, energy drinks, coffee, iced tea, and chocolate.
- Screens and electronics: Keep screens/electronics out of your child’s bedroom. Children can easily develop the bad habit of “needing” a show to fall asleep. It is also much more difficult to control your child’s viewing if they have access to a TV or iPad in the bedroom. Keep all other electronic devices out of the bedroom, such as computers, smartphones, and hand-held computer games.
- Exercise: Your child should spend time outside every day and get daily exercise.
If you’re concerned about your child’s sleep health, contact your pediatrician or a pediatric sleep specialist.
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