Here’s our list of tips to help your child fall asleep and stay asleep, and therefore get the amount of sleep needed:
While we all know about routine and babies, it is equally important that older children have a regular sleep routine. Try to keep your child’s bedtime and wake-up time should be about the same time everyday. There should not be more than an hour’s difference in bedtime and wake-up time between school nights and weekend nights.
We recommend 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, in the room where your child sleeps. Reading stories in bed, even lying down on their pillow can really help with relaxing and getting ready to fall asleep.
Your child’s bedroom should be comfortable, relaxing, quiet, and dark. Although we think 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 but not cold, so 16-20 degrees is idea. Blackout curtains or a blind can be very helpful, both for light summer evenings and for mornings when the sun comes up early.
Avoid using your child’s bedroom for time out or other punishment. You want your child to think of the bedroom as a good place, not a bad one.
Your child should not go to bed hungry. A light snack (such as milk and cookies) before bed is a good idea. Heavy meals within an hour or two of bedtime, however, may interfere with sleep. If your child hasn’t eaten a decent dinner, you may need an extra snack at bedtime (aim for something boring such as a sandwich so they aren’t being rewarded with a treat after not eating dinner!).
We recommend avoiding all caffeine with children, in particular do not give children caffeinated drinks. However pay special attention to this for at least 3 to 4 hours before bedtime, as caffeine can be hiding in products such as fizzy drink,iced tea, and chocolate.
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.
Limit screen time & monitor device use:
Keep the television set out of your child’s bedroom. Children can easily develop the bad habit of “needing” the television to fall asleep. It is also much more difficult to control your child’s television viewing if the set is in the bedroom. The also applies to hand-held devices such as ipads, ipods, mobile phones and laptops. These devices emit blue light which stops your child feeling sleepy, and also you cannot see what they are doing online. This can lead to bullying or inappropriate use. We recommend having a family ‘charging station’, where all devices are plugged in and charged overnight in a common family area.
Your child should spend time outside every day and get daily exercise. Fresh air, sunlight and running around all help to make your children healthy and also tired enough to sleep well at the end of the day. We recommend having a time when the TV or devices are allowed on, for example in our family, no devices or TV are allowed until 3pm in the weekend.
If your child struggles to relax at bedtime, using a child specific relaxation CD can be a huge help. It will help them to lie quietly in bed, relaxing their body. It will encourage them to listen and focus on the relaxing message. These can be used from approx 3 years old. Other relaxation or nature sounds can also be helpful, and can be left on repeat all night to help with resettling and covering outside noises which may contribute to early waking.