Children need their sleep to help them function, learn, and grow. As parents, the bedtime routine is an important tool to help your child with this. Here are some reliable tips for establishing a healthy bedtime with your child:
- Maintain a consistent sleep schedule and bedtime routine. Your school aged child needs 9 to 11 hours of sleep at night. Have a bedtime that allows for this. A routine will help your child settle down and feel sleepy at bedtime. It is important that bedtime is at the same time every night. If you decide your child can stay up later on nonschool nights, keep it to only slightly later.
- Keep the bedtime routine simple. You want to be able to maintain the ritual over time. This will also allow for another parent or caregiver to also replicate the familiar routine. It may include washing up, putting on pajamas, reading one story, saying a prayer, and tucking in. Allow it to be a calm and peaceful time for you and your child. The routine should use the same amount of time each night. Don’t allow it to stretch long some nights and then rush through it other nights.
- Make your child’s bedroom conducive to sleep. The room should be dark, cool, and quiet. Consider a night light or cracking the door to allow a little light rather than allowing the child to go to sleep with the room light on. Listen to the child about how hot or cold he/she feels and dress appropriately.
- Avoid T.V.s and computers at bedtime. Screens give off light which inhibits the production of melatonin (the sleep hormone) in the brain, preventing the child from feeling sleepy. Also, video games and some shows can keep the child’s mind going rather than calming down for bedtime. Instead use books for bedtime activities.
- Build your child’s autonomy for sleeping. Leave the room to allow your child to fall asleep on his/her own. Some children become anxious so you may need to help build these skills. Consider letting your child read/look at a book for 20 minutes or so until more sleepy. You may want a small lamp near their bed to turn off on their own.
These tips will help you with a more peaceful bedtime routine with your child. If your child still struggles or seems overly anxious, consider counseling with a professional. At VCC we have a team of qualified and caring therapists that will help you and your child build skills to successfully manage anxiety and other issues at the root of their sleep problems.