Good Sleep is incredibly important for Children. When I say “Good Sleep,” I mean quality sleep that lasts the right amount of un-interrupted time. Often when children are having behavioral or emotional issues—lack of sleep is the culprit. If you’re not sleep enough or not sleeping well, it’s incredibly hard to function in a happy and healthy way. Think about how difficult a day can be or how moody you, as an adult are, when you do not get quality sleep. Now imagine a child who is not sleeping well—they are developmentally less equipped to manage emotions and behaviors and to “get over it and keep moving”—it’s just not what kids do, they cannot do it!
Sleep is one of the first things we address and help parents with in counseling. Often, if we can sleep lined out…further therapy isn’t even needed.
Below are some helpful tips to help YOU help your child get the necessary sleep he or she needs…
- Have your child go to bed and get up at the same time EVERY day—yes this even means weekends. Your child needs to get their body and mind on a schedule. Your body and mind love habits…they will get in the habit of sleeping at this time. It then takes less work to “wind your body down.” Studies show that people who go to bed at the same time every night…fall asleep faster and wake up more refreshed.
- Ensure that your child’s bedtime and wake up time enable them to get at least 10 hours of sleep. Follow this link to see specific recommended hours for each age: http://www.webmd.com/parenting/guide/sleep-children
- Create an evening routine. Children need routine, it lets them know what to expect and gives them a little control on a world that is run by adults. Further, setting up a routine helps their bodies and minds wind down. A suggested routine might be:
- 6:00—Play Time
- 7:00—Bath time (A bath really helps to calm the body—you can even use kid friendly bubble bath or lotion after the bath that have lavender and/or chamomile…both of these fragrances have a calming effect)
- 7:30—Evening Snack (Toast and peanut butter, crackers & cheese, fruit and yogurt, and other snacks that are low in sugar are best… It may be best to avoid too much liquid if nighttime wetting is a problem)
- **Bathroom Break right before Laying Down**
- 8:00—Story time in bed
- Tuck in Routine and Lights Out
- Keep the television and other electronics off 2 hours prior to bed time (This includes NOT watching parents or other siblings playing electronics). Electronics often act as a stimulant and the brain struggles to slow down after playing or watching TV, games, computers, etc… They also prevent us from processing the day and dealing with any lingering ideas that might keep us up…
- Try turning on a Fan or having another light noise that doesn’t distract children from sleep but blocks out other noises (i.e. dog barking, cars passing, siblings, etc…)
- No caffeine after 2:00 PM and limit sugar greatly—no sugar at all after dinner is best (the more you can decrease caffeine and sugar intake during the day in general, the better…)
- No vigorous exercise or playing for an hour or two before bed… Just like electronics can stimulate your brain and block it from processing ideas…vigorous exercise can prevent the body from being able to slow down and rest.
- Keep the room cool…perhaps just chilly enough that you have to have a blanket. Studies show that we sleep better in a room that is slightly colder than normal.