By Pam Dewey • May 14, 2020
Getting a full, restful night of sleep is important for children’s development. It strengthens their immune systems, so they can better fight illnesses and diseases. It gives their bodies time to grow and repair. It improves their motor coordination and brain development. Sleep is also crucial for helping children regulate emotions and moods.
If your child struggles with bedtime, here a few ideas to help with the transition and to ensure he or she sleeps better.
Set a specific bedtime
Most parents give their children a bedtime, but it’s important to be consistent with their bedtime. It’s also crucial to ensure your child gets enough sleep. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends babies 4 to 12 months get 12 to 16 hours of sleep, including naps. Infants ages 1 to 2 should sleep 11 to 14 hours a day. Children ages 3 to 5 years old need 10 to 13 hours of sleep a day. Those aged 6 to 12 should get 9 to 12 hours a day.
Create a bedtime routine
Routines are essential for young children and can be particularly soothing for those with autism, special needs or mental health concerns. By setting up a routine, you signal to your child what is coming next, which is comforting. Your child’s body may even learn to react to the routine by getting sleepy. Here are a few things you can include in a bedtime routine:
Turn off the screens
Experts recommend that children (and adults) should not watch a tv screen, phone screen or computer screen for about 1 to 1 ½ hours before bed. The light from these screens interferes with melatonin, which helps people become sleepy. Making your child’s bedroom a screen-free zone can help them sleep better.
Create a relaxing environment for your child to sleep in
Sleep cycles are also regulated by temperature. A bedroom should be a little cooler to promote better sleep. Children often like to sleep with a favorite stuffed animal, or perhaps they need background noise, like a white noise machine or a fan, to fall asleep. Soft sheets and room-darkening curtains can also help your child sleep more soundly.
Address your child’s fears
Children may worry about many things, and you should address rather than dismiss these fears. You can try soothing them by saying, “Everything will be okay.” You could also offer them some kind of charm or toy to watch over them while they sleep. Maybe you can spray their room with “monster spray,” which you can create by mixing water with lavender essential oils (lavender promotes sleep). You could also just switch the label on a can of air freshener.
If your child is throwing severe tantrums, has lost the ability to speak or isn’t hitting development milestones, it may be time to reach out. Fraser is now offering many services like diagnostic assessments or Fraser Family Consults through our telehealth platform. You don’t have to wait for answers. Fraser can help now. You can also call the Fraser Hope Line to immediately speak with a mental health professional. Call 612-446-HOPE (4673), Monday through Friday, 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.