How to Create Ideal Sleeping Conditions for Your Children
Bedtime can be rough for both parents and children, requiring elaborate rituals and routines to prepare children for sleep. Even once the children are tucked in and sound asleep, there’s no guarantee that they’ll sleep soundly throughout the night.
Like all things we teach our children, good sleeping habits are trained. The first step to making bedtime a breeze is establishing good sleep hygiene. Here are a few tips to create the ideal sleeping conditions for your children, so that they – and you – can rest well regularly.
What Is Sleep Hygiene?
Like all other aspects of our health that require good habits to maintain optimal wellness, sleep is no different. Sleep hygiene encompasses all the routines, rituals, and practices that are conducive to better rest, establishing good sleeping habits for your body to follow naturally.
While it’s easy to assume that good rest is achieved on a night-by-night basis, the truth is that good sleeping habits are conditioned, and routine is the key to achieving regular quality rest.
Sleep Hygiene for Your Children
Establishing good sleep hygiene for your children entails providing a comfortable environment, enforcing a strict routine, and preparing them for rest through relaxing bedtime rituals.
The Ideal Sleep Environment
Prepare your child for sleep by providing them with a comfortable environment where they feel safe and calm. This means eliminating all surrounding distractions: provide a room away from traffic and household activity, and free of light and sound pollution. White noise, such as the sound of a fan, is helpful in drowning out background noise and providing your child with a calming backdrop against which to fall asleep.
Complete darkness is best for sleeping, but it is more important for your child to feel safe and secure. Provide a dim night light, if needed, for your child’s comfort. Draw the curtains to hide any outside activity that may startle or frighten your child. Surround your child with security objects, such as plushies and blankets, so that they feel safe in your absence.
If possible, keep the room a cool 65-70 degrees: the body’s core temperature must drop in order to sleep, but not so low as to cause shivering. Have your child wear light layers to avoid sweating in the middle of the night. As a general rule, use your own body temperature as a guide: if you need lighter or heavier layers depending on the season, apply the same principles to your child.
Avoid keeping any distracting toys or electronics in the bedroom that may tempt your child to stay up and play. This is especially true for tablets, computers, video game consoles, and televisions, which your child may try to turn on once you leave the room. Moreover, the blue light emitted by electronic devices has been shown to disrupt sleep, and should be avoided at least an hour before bedtime.
Most importantly, have your child use the bed exclusively for sleeping. This causes the mind to associate the bed with rest, signaling the body to become drowsy once they are tucked in. If your child is a chronic clock-checker, turn the clocks away from the bed. If your child cannot fall asleep after 30 minutes, have him/her engage in a relaxing activity for 20 minutes, and then try again: the goal is to prevent the mind from associating the bed with sleeplessness.
Set Up a Bedtime Routine
A strict bedtime routine is essential for establishing good sleeping habits in children. Bedtime rituals act as markers that signal to the mind it’s time to rest, and allow ample time for your child to get drowsy naturally. Set up a routine with the same bedtime rituals including preparation and relaxing activities: such as bath time, brushing teeth, and closing with a bedtime story. Setting regular daily sleeping and waking times, even on the weekends, is essential to maintaining a natural body rhythm. Sleeping or waking late just one day can throw off the schedule for up to a week.
Avoid sugar and caffeine as much as possible in your child’s diet, but especially close to bedtime. Moreover, try not to let your child eat too close to bedtime, as it can lead to discomfort and stomachaches.
Exercising thoroughly throughout the day will leave your child ready and willing to get some much needed rest. Try not to play at night, as this may excite and further stimulate your child. Even if your child becomes exhausted during the day, try not to let them nap or fall asleep anywhere other than their own bed, as this will disrupt the sleeping habits you fought so hard to establish.
Schedule a Consultation with Dr. Shukla
Sleep is essential to a child’s growth and development, but we all know that it doesn’t always come easy. Always listen to your child’s needs: if they have chronic nightmares, trouble falling or staying asleep, or trouble breathing during the night, your child could be suffering from a sleep disorder. Schedule a sleep study with Dr. Mayank Shukla today for a private consultation. Dr. Shukla specializes in treating asthma, allergy, and sleep disorders in pediatric patients, and will make better rest a reality for your child and the whole family.