Beyond Counting Sheep: 11 Tips to Help Kids Sleep
One of the most important factors in kids’ health is getting a good night’s sleep. Kids need anywhere from 9-12 hours of sleep each night. According to the National Sleep Foundation, many of them aren’t getting enough sleep.
What can parents do to help kids sleep? Check out our 11 smart tips below. Hopefully these ideas can help everyone in your house sleep easier, parents included.
Start a bedtime routine
You may have thought that kids outgrew their bedtime routines along with the crib. But a bedtime routine can help signal the mind that it’s time to start shutting down. It can be as simple as a bath or shower, a snack, brushing teeth, and reading quietly. A bath or shower lowers core body temperature which helps bring on sleep. In fact, a good bedtime routine works no matter where a child is going to bed — at a sleepover, on vacation, or even at camp.
More physical activity
Let’s start with getting home from school. Whether your kids are in preschool, high school, or somewhere in between, they’ve probably been pretty inactive for much of the day. Encourage them to head outside instead of flopping onto the couch. Ride a bike or scooter around the block, walk the family dog, spend time at a nearby park or on a play structure in the backyard.
Get homework out of the way
For older kids, scrambling to finish homework can delay bedtime. Take that excuse out of play by instituting a Homework First policy. They may still have some work to do after sports practice or other scheduled activities, but it won’t be as daunting. Tackling homework immediately also helps alleviate stress that can keep kids awake later.
Kids can be surprisingly sensitive to the effects of caffeine. We’re not fans of sugary caffeinated beverages for anyone, but especially not kids. Watch what they’re eating after school and practice, and keep healthy, unleaded options available instead.
Ditch the gadgets, including TV
The blue light emitted by screens actually affects production of melatonin, the hormone in our bodies that helps regulate our sleep. Turn off TVs, phones, tablets, and computers at least an hour before bedtime to ensure melatonin keeps flowing. Bonus: The quiet environment will also help relax everyone and signal that it’s time for bed.
Eat a bedtime snack
It’s not a myth that Thanksgiving turkey puts people to sleep; many foods and food combinations can encourage sleep. Try whole grain toast with almond butter, oatmeal with a banana sliced into it, or even chamomile tea.
Cool room, warm bedding
Cooler temperatures help everyone sleep better, including kids. If you have a programmable thermostat, set it to a lower temperature at night. Make sure kids have comfortable pajamas and plenty of warm bedding, but don’t push if they insist they’re warm enough.
Read a book
Reading is a wonderful way to transition from daily life to dreamland. Not only is it a passive activity that lets kids fade out when they’re ready, it can help with bedtime anxiety by immersing kids in another world. Whether kids read to themselves or you read to them, we highly recommend incorporating a few pages into their bedtime routine.
Let them whine it out
A little tough love may be necessary, especially if kids have always associated your presence with falling asleep. If they call to you, you can wait a few minutes before responding. It can take time and consistency to undo established patterns.
A word about melatonin
Three words actually: See your pediatrician.
If you’ve been doing everything possible to facilitate bedtime, and you and your child are still struggling? There may be something bigger going on, health-wise, that’s making it difficult to sleep. Make an appointment with your pediatrician.