What a person does during the day and especially before bedtime, can have a major impact on their sleeping habits. The sleep routines a person engages in can either promote healthy sleep or contribute to sleep disturbance. Getting a good night’s rest means to stay asleep throughout the night without intermittent waking up. When most children go to bed, they often fall asleep after a few minutes. There are several reasons which can impact how long it takes a child to get to sleep e.g. how sleepy their bodies are, their daytime routines and bedtime routines. The following are some tips that can help children get a good sleeping routine.
- Bedtime and wake-up time – Try and set a regular time when your child goes to sleep and wakes up in the morning. If bedtime and wake-up times are within 1-2 hours of each other each day, their body’s clock gets accustomed to this routine and they will find it easier to fall asleep and to get up, at the same time each day. In this way, good sleeping patterns are established.
- Naps – As children grow older, they automatically reduce the amount of sleeping hours that they require to be rested. When children reach the age of 5, most would have stopped having naps. However, if your child still requires one, try and keep it short for them, no longer than 20 minutes and not later than early afternoon. If they have long naps later in the afternoon, it will be more difficult for them to go to sleep at the desired time at night.
- Relaxing before bedtime – Younger children usually enjoy having a parent reading them a story before they go to sleep. When this is done consistently, they learn to associate storytime being followed by sleeping time. For older children, the routine might include a chat about their day or doing some other leisurely activity such as listening to music.
- Use of technology – Nowadays, children enjoy using technology before going to sleep; such as watching a video on YouTube, playing a game or talking to their friends. A study of children aged 4 to 11 found that increased screen time was associated with increased sleep anxiety, increased night waking and increased total sleep disturbance (Fuller et al., 2017). It is suggested that throughout the day, children do not overdo it with screen time and that they stop using technological devices at least 30 minutes to 1 hour before sleeping.
- Food – Mealtimes should be at appropriate times, not too close or far away from sleeping time to avoid your child either feeling hungry or too full before bed. For older children, it is better that they avoid having caffeine or energy drinks before sleeping, as this can create some sleep disturbances.
Dr Marilyn Muscat is registered as an Educational Psychologist with the Health and Care Professions Council in the United Kingdom where she trained. She works with children, adolescents and their families to understand more about educational, social and emotional well-being concerns that they have and to help them improve upon their difficulties. She can be contacted on firstname.lastname@example.org or call us on 79291817.
Fuller, C., Lehman, E., Hicks, S., & Novick, M. B. (2017). Bedtime Use of Technology and Associated Sleep Problems in Children. Global pediatric health, 4, 2333794X17736972. https://doi.org/10.1177/2333794X17736972