Proven Ways To Improve Your Child’s Sleep Hygiene

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When your child goes to bed does it take forever for them to fall asleep? Or do they fall asleep quickly, but wake up at 2 am wide awake and asking to play? If this describes your child, then you are definitely not alone. Many kids do not have a sleep hygiene routine that can help them fall asleep fast adn stay asleep. According to the CDC, it is estimated that 30 to 40% of children do not get enough sleep each night.

The great news is that helping your kids get the valuable sleep they need is easier than you might think.

Your routines during the day, and especially before bedtime, can affect the quality of your kid’s sleep. By replacing activities and habits that can disrupt your sleep with healthy sleep practices can mean the difference between a restful night and a restless one. These healthy habits that support better sleep are called sleep hygiene.

Why is Sleep Hygiene Important for Kids?

While working as a school psychologist I often asked parents about their children’s sleep habits. This is because sleep problems can have a huge impact on a child’s learning and behavior.

Kids who don’t get the recommended amount of sleep have more difficulties with attention, short term memory, emotional control, reasoning, and problem-solving. They also demonstrate more disruptive behaviors and anxiety.

tired boy reading at a desk who does not have good sleep hygiene

Research also indicates that sleep is also essential to good health. When your kids get the sleep they need they may have a lower risk of becoming overweight and developing diabetes. Sleep is also crucial for children to grow, to strengthen their immune system, and reduce injuries.

Quality sleep on a regular basis is crucial to maintaining balanced mental, emotional, and physical health for both adults and children.

How Many Hours of Sleep do Your Kids Need?

The amount of sleep your kids need may be more than you think. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics and the American Academy of Sleep Medicine the following sleep hours are recommended:

chart showing recommended hours of sleep needed for children for optimal sleep hygiene

I would add to this that parent’s need as much sleep as they can possibly get. Consequently, if your kids are getting the recommended amount of sleep it is more likely that you will get more sleep too. Proper sleep hygiene can help that happen.

Proven Ways to Improve Your Child’s Sleep Hygiene

Here are the proven sleep hygiene practices that you can begin today to create a consistent bedtime routine for healthy, restful sleep.

Wind it Down

It’s a good idea to begin winding down about 30 minutes to an hour before your kids actual bedtime routine starts. This should include turning off the TV and other screens and dimming lights to help your child regulate their internal clock. When kids are using TV, smartphones, or other devices before bed it can suppress the release of melatonin, the sleep-inducing hormone. This is largely due to the artificial blue light that’s emitted by these devices. The more electronic devices that a person uses in the evening, the harder it is to fall asleep or stay asleep.

child in bed with blue light screen that is bad for sleep hygiene
Photo by Ludovic Toinel on Unsplash

All of this is true for adults and kids. Try setting a digital curfew at two hours before bed, one hour before bed, or even 30 minutes before bed—the earlier in the evening, the better, but whatever feels realistic. For example, my daughter’s bedtime routine starts at 7:15, so my family generally turns the screens off at 6 pm. It is also helpful to dim the lights and close the curtains to help with the wind-down process.

Wind-down Activities

To replace screen time, some wind-down activities could include bedtime yoga, a jigsaw puzzle, a quiet chat about your day to reconnect, a relaxing craft like playing with playdough or drawing, or reading a book.

mom reading a book with her daughter before bedtime

Drinking a relaxing tea can also help calm your child before bed. My daughter likes Celestial Seasonings Herbal Tea, Sleepytime, which is a blend of chamomile, spearmint, and lemongrass. (note: if your child is allergic to ragweed then they may be sensitive to chamomile). And, of course, if you give her tea she wants a snack to go with it. Our go-to bedtime snacks are apples with nut butter, a banana, almonds, or low-sugar yogurt. Apples and bananas are rich in magnesium and potassium which promote muscle relaxation.

Create a Cozy Sleeping Environment

Creating a cozy sleeping environment as part of your sleep hygiene routine will help your kids fall asleep fast and stay asleep. It’s best to keep their bedroom dark, but if they prefer a nightlight, then I would recommend a Himalayan salt lamp.

We love using a Himalayan salt lamp in our daughter’s room. She uses it as her nightlight since she does not like to sleep in a dark room. This light is also great for people that are up frequently at night, like nursing moms. It emits a soft, warm glow that is much more relaxing than the harsh glare of regular lamps and overhead lights.

Himalayan salt lamp that is great for sleep hygiene

It’s also helpful to use blackout curtains, especially in the summer months when it’s sunny out and you’re trying to convince your child that it really is bedtime. We have the Tommee Tippee GroAnywhere Blackout Blind. It uses suction cups to stick to the window glass and is easily removed. It comes with a travel bag so that you can use it while traveling.

If your child has difficulty sleeping in silence or you want to drown out some of the noises from the rest of the house, then you could use a white noise machine, a fan, or a diffuser that plays music. Just make sure that the device does not emit light or has an option to turn the light off. Lavendar essential oil is a great oil to use in your diffuser during bedtime.

Then there are the lovies (the stuffed animals, pillows, blankies that are well loved by your child). I say give them all the lovies they want as long as they are safe and are not distracting. If your child wakes up in the middle of the night, they may be easily comforted by their lovie and go right back to sleep. Or that lovie may get shoved under the blanket and they will come find you to help recover it, but it’s a risk worth taking.

The Bedtime Routine

Finally, it’s time to get to bed! The actual bedtime routine can comprise of many relaxing and sleep hygiene promoting activities. Here is a typical bedtime routine:

  • Take a bath
  • Put on pajamas
  • Brush teeth
  • Storytime in bed
  • Goodnight kisses
  • Turn off light

The routine itself can be adapted depending on what you find works for your child’s individual needs. For example, we sometimes include a moment to talk about what we are grateful for that day.

It’s not so much the components of the routine that are important, but the consistency that is key. We used this awesome checklist from The Trip Clip when starting our routine and my daughter loves it! I placed the checklist into a plastic sleeve so that it could be reused each night. My daughter loves checking off each step at bedtime. There are a lot of picture options so that you can customize it for your child.

example of the Trip Clip bedtime routine checklist
Picture checklist courtesy of The Trip Clip

Next Steps

By following these sleep hygiene tips you will set your children up for a good night’s rest. In the post, Smart Solutions to Your Child’s Sleep Difficulties, I address problems or difficulties that may arise during bedtime.

You may also like this post, 5 Easy Ways to Boost Your Afternoon Energy, to boost your family’s afternoon energy and crush the rest of the day.

I hope these sleep hygiene tips help your kids get the quality sleep they need! Please share the goodness and pin it or share on Instagram and hashtag it #tonsofgoodness. Thank you!

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