Many common sleep problems in children and adolescents can be avoided by making sleep a priority for everyone in the family. The first step in effectively managing a sleep disorder is proper sleep hygiene, or practicing good sleep habits. The following are sleep hygiene tips that can help your child get a good night of sleep:
- Maintain a regular sleep schedule with consistent bedtime and waking time each night, including weekends and vacations.
- Create a relaxing, consistent bedtime routine that ends in the child’s bedroom.
- Maintain a comfortable, quiet, and dark sleeping environment.
- Avoid caffeine (including coffee, tea, and soda) after lunch, as caffeine has an arousing effect, making it difficult to fall asleep.
- Avoid stimulating activities in the last hour before the child goes to sleep, including exercise, rough play, electronics, and mental activities.
- Allow children to nap based on age and developmental needs only, and avoid long naps, frequent naps, or naps that end too close to bedtime.
- Use the bed only for sleep, with a limited amount of time spent reading to help a child relax prior to lights out.
- Ask your doctor which medicines to avoid if your child is having sleep problems, as many common medicines can cause excessive sleepiness or insomnia.
- Make sleep a priority for every member of the family! Children are more likely to develop good sleep habits if their parents also follow the rules of sleep hygiene.
It is not always possible to maintain routine sleep hygiene, such as when a child has a sleepover at a friend’s house or goes on vacation. When possible, try to schedule these activities for Friday evenings, which allows your child Saturday evening to adjust and get back on a regular sleep schedule by Sunday for the upcoming week.
Back-to-School Sleep Schedules
During summer and holiday breaks from school, a child’s sleep schedule may change. It is important to plan ahead to help your child return to a consistent schedule before school begins. Take the following steps to prepare your child for back-to-school sleep:
- Begin adjusting bedtime a few weeks before school begins, gradually moving up bedtime by 15 minutes each night.
- Develop a calm, relaxing bedtime routine each night, which may include turning off all electronics, eating a snack, reading, or taking a bath 30 minutes before bed.
- Adhere to the sleep routine even on the weekends with bedtimes and wake times within an hour of the regular weekday schedule.
- Ensure that the bedroom environment is cool, dark, comfortable, and technology free.
- Be consistent with bedtimes and wake times once a sleep schedule is established.