9 Tips to Help Get Your Kids to Sleep
Sleep is an important part of your child’s daily routine. To function well during the day, they need to get enough sleep. And most kids aren’t getting enough rest. Poor or inadequate sleep can cause problems in many areas of life. Difficulties with behavior and learning are often related to lack of sleep.
Kids who get enough sleep don’t tend to be moody, tired during the day, and have trouble staying focused in school or their jobs. They also may be irritable or quick to lose their tempers; some even become hyperactive or aggressive.
According to the National Sleep Foundation, children aged 3 to 5 need 10 to 13 hours, while kids aged 6 to 13 need at least 9 to 11 hours of sleep a night. Teenagers need at least 8 to 10 hours. But the average American child gets less than eight hours of shut-eye each night.
The good news is that there are lots of ways you can help your child get more rest every night. Even young children can learn to say goodnight, quiet down, and fall asleep on their own.
Here are 9 tips that may help your child sleep better at night:
1. Establish a bedtime routine that works for your child’s schedule
While it’s fine to keep them busy, try not to push your kids too hard during that last half-hour before bedtime. Stop before they become overtired; that means they probably need more rest. If they can brush their teeth and change into pajamas without too much grumbling, you’re right on schedule. But if arguing, complaints, or temper tantrums ensue, you’ll want to hold off until tomorrow morning. Whatever activity is part of their pre-bedtime routine needs to be relaxing and calm for them to fall asleep.
The right time to go to sleep is when your child feels tired but not overtired. It can take anywhere from 30 minutes to an hour after lights out for kids’ brains and bodies to get the cue it’s time to shut down for the night. If you make them fall asleep too early in anticipation of their required wake-up time, they’ll just wake up earlier in the morning than necessary. This will also interrupt their normal sleeping pattern. So set an appropriate bedtime that allows them to be alert and awake during daylight hours, then let them fall into a deep sleep at night when darkness takes over every evening.
Keep consistent bedtimes and wake times. Establishing and sticking to a sleep schedule is important for healthy sleep habits. Kids need about 10 hours of sleep each day, and if they don’t get those 10 hours at roughly the same time every night and day, they can develop irregular sleeping patterns that make it hard to fall asleep and stay asleep if your child misses their usual bedtime on weekends. It can throw off their internal clock and cause trouble falling asleep on Sunday night —and back into the early morning routine come Monday morning.
2. Make their bedroom sleep-friendly
Create a space in their bedroom where they feel both cozy and safe to encourage sleeping. It should be dark, cool, and quiet in there with no distractions. Avoid bright lights, TV, or video games in the room, which can interfere with falling asleep. Dim the lights for between 30 minutes and an hour before your child goes to bed; this will help them relax and fall asleep better. A warm bath or shower followed by a story also helps kids wind down to get some sleep.
3. Keep it cool
A cooler room temperature is recommended; a slightly chilly 68 degrees Fahrenheit (20 degrees Celsius) is perfect for making your child sleepy. You could try using a fan to circulate air around the room, too, which may bring some needed relief from heat if you’re located in a warmer environment. Avoid hot temperatures as it makes it harder for children to fall asleep due to increased energy produced by their growing bodies, which conflict with circadian rhythms that make them feel tired during nighttime hours. That said, keeping your kid warm will help them stay cozy and content. So it’s important to use a comfy blanket that they can snuggle up in when trying to sleep at night.
4. During the day, get as much natural light as possible
Encourage your youngster to get as much natural light as possible during the day, particularly in the morning. The hormone melatonin is suppressed by bright light. This helps your kid stay awake and alert during the day while inducing drowsiness before bedtime.
5. Let kids unwind with books
Reading is an excellent way to relax at night. But you don’t have to let reading be the only activity your child does before bedtime; other quiet activities are also fine. Avoid stimulating activities or exercises associated with playing video games or watching television. Also, avoid looking at any screens up to an hour before bedtime because of the associated blue light that can interfere with melatonin production, which tells our brains it’s time for sleep.
6. Limit liquids, and watch out for medication and alcohol
Your kid should limit their liquid intake in the evening hours, not only just before bedtime but during dinner as well. Drinking too much fluid makes kids wake up frequently during the night, increasing their chances of dehydration which will steal precious sleep from them.
Avoid caffeine at night. While some parents believe that coffee and tea can perk kids up, it’s one of the worst things you can give your child before bedtime because caffeine is a stimulant, and too much caffeine before bed can make it hard for them to fall asleep.
Remember that even over-the-counter and prescription medications, including some herbal remedies, can cause sleep disruptions. Alcohol is a depressant that will put your child to sleep, but it reduces their quality of rest and decreases the depth of their REM (Rapid Eye Movement) cycles. Just like adults, children can also experience the effects of too much alcohol before bedtime, including dehydration and hangover symptoms such as headache or nausea coming morning.
7. Make sure your kids are getting enough exercise
Of course, not right before bedtime or soon before they go to bed because you don’t want them to be too energized. But regular physical activity helps them get the necessary amount of sleep each night by helping tire their bodies out earlier in the day. Just make sure it’s an appropriate level of exertion for your child’s age, though. If it feels like hard work, you should scale back until they become more conditioned to physical activity over time.
8. Avoid big meals
Kids should not have a big meal either right before bedtime or within 3 hours of going to sleep because it can make them uncomfortable and interfere with their ability to get quality rest. Eating too close to bedtime causes heartburn, acid reflux, and discomfort, which can disturb your child’s natural sleeping patterns.
9. Help kids relax at night
When your kids start to feel drowsy, then take that as your cue that they’re ready for lights out. You don’t want to let them fall asleep while engaged in an activity like watching television or playing on their devices, though; this will only make it harder for them the next day when you try to extricate them from these tech-induced comas.
There are so many ways you can comfort your little one without resorting to screens just before bedtime. From massage to reading books together, doing calming activities together will let your child know that it’s almost time for sleep—and help them relax into slumber once that familiar head hits the pillow.
Sleeping well is a challenge for us all, but it’s something that we need to do to keep our bodies healthy and functioning properly. Kids face special challenges when it comes to getting the essential 8 hours of sleep each night because they’re still growing and developing during their most restful periods. So if you can encourage your children to follow some or all of these helpful tips, they will be able to get the sleep they need at night, so they have more energy during the day to learn new things and be active with friends.
If you find yourself still having trouble getting your little one to hit the hay on time, consider making an appointment with your family doctor, who can help determine if there’s an underlying medical condition or sleeping disorder causing all the late nights. While most kids will fall asleep as they get older, it’s important to be aware of learning disabilities and attention deficit disorders that might cause them to have trouble with early bedtimes or staying in bed.
Jennifer is the Sleeping products expert and merchandise testers. She features a vast selection of experiences to effort from when creating the standard information our visitors come to seek out. She handles the daily operations of the site, and you’ll also see her in plenty of reviews, from mattresses to travel pillow and bed pillow reviews. She’s adamant about sleep health and knows just how important it’s to our well-being. Jenifer reports, writes, and edits sleep health and sleep industry news on Sleeping Park. She will be found reading or traveling when she gets leisure time.