Here are some useful tips to help children develop good sleep habits.
Getting a good sleep pattern is important. Children will have better sleep if they go to bed at the same time each day. This should also be the same at weekends and holidays. Bed time should not vary by more than an hour between school and non-school nights. Waking up should also be at the same time every day.
It is good to have the same routine before bed each night. This will help prepare for sleep. Quiet activities are good e.g. reading a book or being read to or having a bath or shower. Make sure the bedroom is comfortable. The bedroom should be a quiet, peaceful and dark. The child may welcome a night light. This is fine. The bedroom should be a cosy, safe, refuge – a good place to be.
Remember a bed is for sleeping, not entertainment. TV, computers, mobile phones and other things that may distract a child from sleep. Such activities are not good for sleep. Keep them out of the bedroom. “Needing” the TV to go to sleep is a bad habit. This can easily develop, but you really don’t want it to happen if you can.
A snack before bed may help with sleep. It’s harder to sleep on an empty stomach. Children should not consume a heavy meal within one to two hours of going to bed.
Caffeine is a stimulant. Caffeine is found in many popular drinks. These include coffee, tea and cola soft drinks. It can make it harder to get to sleep. Children should have as little of these as possible, and certainly not after lunchtime.
Try to discourage daytime naps, unless the child is really tired. Very young children however may benefit from a nap. For older children a nap after 4pm can make it harder to get to sleep at night.
Exercise and time outside is good. Daily exercise is an important part of healthy living. It also helps with good sleep. Time spent in bright daylight does the same. Outdoor exercise achieves both things. It is best to steer clear of heavy exercise in the hour before sleep.
Keeping the bedroom on the cool side is good for sleep.
If the child has difficulty getting to sleep or wake in the night, tell them to just try to relax and calm down. Tell them not to worry about trying to sleep. You may like to suggest they think of a nice holiday or a special place where they might imagine they are taking their favourite teddy or pet.
I hope you find this useful
With best wishes, Steve
Please feel free to email your blog posts for “Your Mental Health Matters” to firstname.lastname@example.org Steve Clifford, Cognitive Behavioural Psychotherapist