How to Help Your Child Get a Better Night’s Sleep
Some kids struggle to get the deep, restful sleep they need to wake up feeling refreshed and ready to start the day. It’s not easy to go to school feeling exhausted, but sometimes kids don’t know how to get better sleep.
If your child seems tired in the morning or their teachers say they’re falling asleep in class and it’s not just a one-time thing, here’s how you can help them get better sleep.
Establish a bedtime routine
Children thrive when they have routines for many reasons. For instance, after a while, they won’t have to think about what they’re supposed to be doing because everything will be automatic. This relieves the pressure they might feel from not knowing what’s expected of them. Bedtime routines help kids wind down and get into a more relaxed state at the end of the night. If your child goes to bed frazzled from the day, their nervous system will be stressed and they won’t sleep well.
Prolonged stress often results in sleep deprivation, where kids either can’t fall asleep or don’t stay asleep long enough to feel rested. Routines can help reduce the stress that daily life brings so that it doesn’t keep building day after day. Familiar and predictable daily activities make kids feel confident, and routines help them feel more in control of their lives.
Children face constant change as they grow up, like having new teachers and classmates each year, new rules at school, new subjects and skills to learn, and that’s on top of changes at home. For many kids, having a bedtime routine will be their anchor. This is especially important if your child has autism.
Kids with autism need a bedtime routine more than most kids; it’s a lifeline for them. Since they’re prone to stress more than others, kids on the spectrum often struggle hard with sleep. If you’re not sure how to establish a helpful nighttime routine, talk to your child’s therapist about helping you establish one. If your child doesn’t have a therapist, look into home-based Applied Behavioral Analysis (ABA) therapy. As part of their program, an ABA therapist can teach your child to adopt a routine that works for them, just like they can encourage any other desirable behavior.
At the very least, a good bedtime routine should include:
· A wind-down period where you read a book or talk about their day.
· Tasks like flossing, brushing their teeth, and taking a nighttime shower or bath.
· Getting them into bed and turning off the lights.
Find out what works best for your child and create a routine around that. They’ll fall asleep easier and stay asleep longer. When they get deep sleep, they’ll wake up rested and ready to start the day.
Turn off screens at least 2 hours prior to sleep
Too much screen time before bed is more than likely a major contributing factor to your child’s lack of sleep. The human body is designed to release a surge of melatonin that causes sleepiness. When kids are glued to their smartphones or tablets all night, the blue light emitted from electronic devices disrupts this process and prevents melatonin from being released. The result is a restless child who can’t fall (or stay) asleep.
To prevent this issue, establish a specific bedtime for your child if you haven’t already, and then make sure they don’t use any electronic device (TV, smartphone, tablet, computer) for two hours prior. Encourage them to read, write, draw, or take a bath to wind down.
Avoid late dinners and snacks
Eating too soon before going to bed makes it harder to fall asleep. When the body has to use energy and muscles to digest food, it can keep your child up at night. Try to eat dinner at least three hours before bedtime, if not sooner. Late-night snacks might also be disrupting their sleep, but remember to pick your battles. Tackle the more pressing things like limiting screen time and then work on limiting snacks.
Sleep is the foundation of wellbeing
When your child gets a good night’s sleep, they’ll function better throughout the day. School days are long and tiresome for kids, even when they’ve slept well. If your child is struggling, try the tips outlined in this article to improve the quality of their sleep so they’ll have the energy they need to thrive.