Sleep is such an essential part of good health and a high quality of life. Many children struggle with going to bed and falling asleep. When children do not get enough sleep, it can start to affect other areas of their lives and development.
One of the first things you can begin to do is keep track of your child’s sleep and when issues occur. This can help you determine if there are anything the might be happening nightly that is affecting their sleep. However, If your child is having extreme sleep difficulties (not sleeping but a few hours per night, night terrors, sleepwalking, sleeping extremely long times, etc.) contact your doctor to rule out any medical problems first.
Here is a list of five strategies that may help your child get to bed easier and go to sleep.
Set up a nightly routine with your child. Its import to follow a routine each time that lets the child know it’s time for bed and also helps their bodies start calming down for sleep. For example, the routine may be getting pajamas on, brush teeth, read a bedtime story with parents, say goodnight, and turn on soft music. Following the same schedule, each night helps bedtime be a predictable event for them which helps children. Visual schedules can help some children follow the routine.
Limit any screen time before bed. Before it’s even time for bed start turning off screens the child may be watching. TVs, tablets, phones, computers, video games, etc. can all be very stimulating for children senses. Turning them off and doing a calm activity like reading, listening to music, drawing, etc. will help them not be stimulated before getting ready for bed. It has been recommended for everyone to turn off screens for a while before going to sleep to allow the body time to relax without any blue lights keeping the body awake. (Why Electronics)
Set limits on what will happen after bedtime. An example would be if your child escapes from bedtime by asking for water set a limit that they have one cup of water by their bed and can’t get up to get more. Children may be using excuses like needing water, going to the bathroom, being hungry, as a way to escape going to sleep and prolonging the time they are awake. Setting a limit will help them stop using these reasons to escape from going to sleep. If your child does leave their bed guide them back to the bed each time to establish a rule that when it is bedtime they need to stay in bed.
Create an environment that is peaceful. Create the child’s bedroom as a place that is calming for them. Having sound machines or music for some children may help them. Some children may want to have a low light on if they are scared of the dark while others having it pitched black is better.
If your child has trouble falling asleep allow them to stay up later than usual bedtime, then slowly fade to normal time, this allows the child to become tired, so they fall asleep quickly and establish the routine of going to bed and going to sleep.
These strategies are generic ideas that have been successful with children. If your child needs a more intensive intervention strategy, please contact a BCBA.
-Brittany Holman, M. Ed, BCBA/LBA
Why Electronics May Stimulate You Before Bed. Retrieved from https://sleepfoundation.org/sleep-topics/why-electronics-may-stimulate-you-bed