Sleep is important for children’s physical and mental development. The younger a child is, the more sleep he or she needs. As kids grow older, it can get difficult to get them to go to bed, stay there and close their eyes. It can really be a challenge to make them sleep especially if they’re distracted with something like the TV or a smartphone.
As parents, it’s up to you and your partner to work together and come up with a strategy that will help establish good sleep habits in your kids. Your strategy should include a short routine – a set of bedtime activities done consistently every night that will make it easier for children to go to bed. Follow these tips to encourage good nighttime habits in kids and help them fall asleep.
Create a conducive sleeping environment
To help children sleep easily, keep the noise level down and make sure the bedroom is dark. Dim the lights in the rest of the house as well as bedtime nears. Exposure to bright light hampers the body’s production of the sleep hormone melatonin, which can make it hard for everyone – not just the kids – to fall asleep. If your child feels better about sleeping alone with a light on, use a small night light or keep the bedroom door open and a hallway light turned on.
You should also check the temperature in the room to make sure it’s cool enough but not cold. If you live in a place that gets sweltering summers, turn the AC on or use a fan to keep your child’s room comfortable. No one likes to wake up sweating!
Establish a bedtime routine
In one study, researchers found that a consistent routine at night improved sleep in kids who had mild and moderate sleep problems. A bedtime routine should make the child look forward to it, so include something special such as reading a book. This will allow the child to develop a positive outlook toward going to bed at night. And because they know what to expect, they will also develop independence and self-control.
Some of the activities you can incorporate in your child’s bedtime routine are going to the bathroom, putting on pajamas, drinking milk or water, brushing teeth, singing a lullaby, reading a story, turning off the lights and saying goodnight with a hug and a kiss. Keep in mind that the routine should help your child calm down. It’s best to make the routine short, around 30 minutes or less. When the routine’s done, be firm when it’s time to sleep.
Ease separation anxiety with a security object
Young children may feel anxious about bedtime because it means not having their parents with them. You can help reassure your child that everything is going to be fine by letting him or her sleep with a security object such as a favorite blanket, a stuffed animal or a doll.
If your child wakes up during the night and calls out, give him or her some time to go back to sleep unattended. If the crying continues, reassure or calm him or her down, then leave. Avoid giving treats or taking your child to bed with you as this will start a bad habit that conflicts with the bedtime routine you’ve established.
When it comes to encouraging good sleep habits in children, consistency is key. Once you have a bedtime routine, it’s important to stick to it. A routine makes everything predictable, which can soothe children learning to sleep on their own.