Tips for Improving Your Child’s Sleep
- Keep a consistent schedule
Sleep goes smoothest when our bodies know what to expect. Set a regular bedtime and wake-up time, and stick to them as much as possible, even on weekends. This is how our bodies set the sleep clock and know when to start slowing down for sleep.
- Have a regular bedtime routine
Just like infants and toddlers do best when they have predictable routines, older children and teenagers can improve their sleep with bedtime rituals. For example, shower or bathe at the same time, read a book for 15 minutes, listen to calming music. These things can “train” your brain that bedtime is coming and it’s time to settle down.
- Use light and dark to your advantage
The body clock is set by the difference between light and darkness, so use this to your advantage. When you are awake in the daytime, keep the windows open and lights on. When you’re getting close to bedtime, dim the lights and avoid screens that shine light (see below).
- No screens at bedtime!
The light and stimulation from screens (phones, TV’s, tablets, video games, etc) can confuse your child’s brain at bedtime, and actually keep them awake. Turn off all electronics about 1 hour before bedtime, to give the brain time to shut down.
- Avoid caffeine in the afternoon
Caffeine stays in the body for at least 4-5 hours, so avoid all caffeine in the afternoon hours.
- Avoid daytime sleeping
Even if you are feeling tired, try not to sleep during the daytime. Even a small amount of daytime rest can make it hard for your body to sleep at night. Resist the urge after a bad night of sleep to take a nap. Instead, go to bed a little earlier the next day.
- Exercise regularly
Regular exercise helps with sleep, but ideally not right before bed. Get some exercise in the morning or early afternoon, and then spend the evening hours calming down.
- If you can’t fall asleep within 20-30 minutes, get up and try again
Rather than lying awake in bed for hours, it’s OK to get up out of bed if you can’t sleep. Do NOT get on your phone or other electronics. Instead, read a book, flip through a magazine, listen to calming music, or do other boring activities until you feel sleepy, and then try again.