8 Tips And Tricks To Improve Your Child's Sleep Habits
Here are a few tips you can use to help your kids start dozing off to Dreamland and waking up happy and rested
To prevent a tired and cranky kid, set up a relaxing bedtime routine that includes a warm bath and no screen time, starting about 2 hours before bed.
A high-sugar dinner or dessert can interfere with sleep; keep their meals balanced with fiber, protein, and healthy fats.
Weighted blankets can be your secret weapon at bedtime to get a restless child snoozing in no time.
Did you know?
Over 70% of children have caffeine on any given day; however, the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that kids under age 12 should not have any caffeine- containing products at all! Time to swap out that soda and get some better sleep.
If you’re the parent of a child who doesn’t sleep well, you know that their lack of shuteye can lead to the whole family not feeling rested. Not getting enough sleep can lead to increased crankiness from both child and parents, as well as he or she not being able to concentrate and learn as well during the school day. There’s no doubt about it - sleep is important, especially for our little ones. Luckily, there’s plenty you can do to help your kids start dozing off to Dreamland and waking up happy and rested.
1. Relaxation Routine
First and foremost, a solid routine is necessary to improve your child’s sleep in the long run. No matter their age, they will have a general understanding of when they need to start winding down for bed if it’s around the same time every night. It all has to do with circadian rhythm, our bodies’ internal 24-hour clocks that like to remain on a similar schedule every day.
This even means that weekends shouldn’t be too different from school nights - try to keep bedtime within a 30-minute window, each and every night. To help nail down a routine for your child, you can build in some relaxing activities, like quietly reading, reducing the amount of active play shortly before bed, or taking a bath. Speaking of...
2. Break Out The Bubbles
Taking a warm bath before bed can improve sleep, both for kids and adults. This has to do with how our bodies regulate temperature. When we increase our body temperature through a warm or hot bath around 90 minutes before bed, we actually end up going to bed with a lower temperature, which is beneficial for sleeping.
Photo by Jen Theodore on Unsplash
Although it seems counterintuitive, the warm water causes blood to circulate from the core to the hands and feet, which drops the internal body temperature to a level that is conducive to snoozin’. Although feeling warm at night is cozy, our bodies actually sleep better when it’s a little bit cooler! Start a routine of warm bath time about 90 minutes before bedtime, and your child will have plenty of time to relax before it’s time to get tucked in.
3. Lights Off, Sounds Off
In addition to cooler body temperature, you’ll also want your child’s room to be on the cool side. Anything too warm can disrupt their sleeping (we all know it’s impossible to get to sleep when you’re sweaty!) Not only that, but keeping the room dark and quiet is also helpful. If you have a little one, they may need a small night light, but try to keep it not-too-bright.
A good option is one that gives off a soft amber glow, like this Himalayan Salt Night Light. You’ll definitely want to steer clear of anything that emits blue light, as those rays can disrupt natural melatonin production and impact sleep. If the rest of the family isn’t heading to bed yet, muffle out the household sounds with a white noise machine.
4. Balance Their Bites
While healthy eating all day long is the ideal goal, we definitely want to make sure their dinner is well balanced. Having too much sugar late at night can severely impair your child’s ability to fall asleep.
Studies have shown that a high-sugar diet leads to less time spent in deep sleep, which will lead to a cranky kid come morning. We’ve all seen kids at a birthday party post-cake and ice cream; sugar rushes and crashes are definitely real!
Photo by Kyle Nieber on Unsplash
Having a balanced meal containing veggies, protein, and healthy fats will lead to their bellies and brains being satisfied all night. Try a kid-friendly mac-and-cheese makeover by using whole-grain pasta, adding some broccoli, and making a cheesy sauce with Greek yogurt. If dessert is a non-negotiable in your house, try swapping out the ice cream for healthy sweets that also have fiber, like a bowl of berries. Their dreams will be even sweeter if you reduce their sugar at night.
5. Add Some Weight (A Weighted Blanket, That Is)
Adding a weighted blanket to your child’s bedtime or naptime routine can help them to relax more quickly, and for longer. The extra weight puts beneficial pressure on the body, and it actually has a special name -- Deep Touch Pressure (DTP).
DTP activates our body’s pressure points, which triggers the release of serotonin. As our brain’s main happiness chemical, increased serotonin levels help you start to feel good pretty quickly.
This superstar hormone is also a precursor for melatonin, which is a well-known hormone that helps regulate our sleep cycles and also helps us to wind down and relax at night.
Weighted blankets can be especially helpful if you have a restless, anxious, or overly active kiddo, because this combination of serotonin and melatonin can help get them calmed down in no time. You’d be surprised how quickly their little bodies relax when they curl up underneath a weighted blanket!
6. Screens Off, Please
Technology is certainly useful to keep our kids entertained at certain times (road trips and long plane rides have never been easier); however, iPads, smartphones, and TV shows before bed are not doing you any favors. Those bright screens emit blue light, which we know interferes with melatonin production and can make it difficult to wind down.
This applies to kids of all ages - if you have an older child, try to avoid putting a TV in their room and keeping their smartphones in the kitchen overnight. Try to keep all screens off for two hours before bed. (Parents, you could benefit from following this advice, too!)
7. Be The Caffeine Police
While it seems obvious that our kiddos shouldn’t be downing espresso shots, you may not notice other hidden sources of caffeine that can add up. Watch out for any caffeine-containing sodas (we want to limit their sugar, anyways!), including the non-cola based ones like Mountain Dew.
Other sneaky sources include chocolate, some flavored waters, and a few over-the-counter pain relievers. Make sure your child isn’t having any of these close to bedtime, otherwise they may be bouncing off the walls until midnight!
8. Get Moving
What we do during the day also impacts how we sleep at night. Kids today are playing outside less and less, mostly due to the increase in fun technology options inside. We now know that putting screen time limits before bed is beneficial, but limiting it during the day can help their sleep, too.
Kids in the 2-5-year-old range should have no more than 1 hour of screen access per day and kids aged 5-13 should be limited to 2 hours. What to do instead?
Head outside to the backyard, to a park, or out for a walk. Even adding 30 minutes of activity can help your child sleep better at night. An added benefit is if your child gets sunlight exposure in the morning, as this can help to further regulate their circadian rhythm. Once again, this can also benefit the parents! Get the whole family moving together each day and you’ll all be sleeping soundly.