How to Help Your Kids Get Good Sleep

Help Your Kids Get Good Sleep

Making sure my children, and my tween in particular, get enough sleep is never far from my thoughts. My tween has just transitioned to middle school and is now waking up an hour earlier, and for some reason, it seems that her extracurriculars enjoy inhabiting the 7p.m. to 8:30p.m. time slot. What can I do to help her (and the other children) get enough rejuvenating sleep? First off, figure out how much sleep your kids need and plan from there.

Then, put the following plans in motion.

  • Provide a healthy diet with snacks as needed so that you don’t have a hungry child at bedtime.  Provide bedtime snacks at least 45 minutes prior to bedtime to allow for the food to settle and for bedtime routine time.
  • Provide time for exercise and free play every day so that your child is tired at bedtime. 
  • Avoid caffeine in the afternoon. Better yet, avoid caffeine in your child’s diet altogether.
  • Aim for the same bedtime each night. This helps the body get into a routine.
  • Follow a bedtime routine. This is different for each family, so find what works for you and the age of your child. For a little one, bathing, brushing teeth, family reading time, praying and tucking in rituals may work. For your older ones, fifteen minutes or so of reading a physical book may be tacked onto the end of the bedtime routine. Reading can lead to relaxation which leads to an easier time falling asleep. A physical book is preferable because the bright screens of electronic devices can disturb sleep patterns.
  • Prioritize and say no sometimes. If your child is old enough, sit together and figure out the priorities of the week. We recently had two fun activities pop up during the school week (one was to prepare for the other, so my daughter would have to attend both), with one from 7p.m. to 8p.m. and another from 7p.m. to 9p.m. Before listening to my pearls of wisdom (again), my daughter said no to both because of other obligations during the week that already keep her up later. For younger children, parents are the decision makers and advocates for the child’s sleep. If possible, say no to activities that keep your child up.
  • Avoid taking away the things that your child uses for his bedtime routine as a consequence.  My husband once decided to take away my daughter’s reading time as a consequence for a poor behavior in the evening. This threw her off of her routine, didn’t give her brain a chance to relax before sleeping, and caused her to stay awake even longer.
  • Avoid putting your child to bed with a TV on in his room. Research shows that kids who are allowed to watch TV at bedtime get less sleep.
  • Figure out what you and your child can do to aid your child’s routine. I was delighted to find a solution to our soccer/sleep dilemma. With soccer practice from 7p.m. to 8:30p.m. twice per week, we needed to come up with a way to get to bed as soon as possible upon returning home. Verbally reminding my daughter of all that she needed to do (including getting her schoolbag packed for the next day, having pajamas and towels ready in the bathroom for a quick bath, and more) did not work. Even making a poster with the items listed on it didn’t work. Then inspiration struck. At school, my kids have exit tickets that they complete to show that they have learned a new concept. Together, my daughter and I came up with an exit ticket for her including everything she needs to do before soccer practice to lead to a smooth bedtime after practice. She has to check off each item and sign it to show that she has completed each item. Then she gives it to me to show that she is ready to exit for soccer practice.  She enjoys that she can check off her to-do list, and I enjoy that she is now independent in her task. And, of course, we both enjoy a smoother bedtime.

    Smooth bedtimes and having your child get enough sleep are definitely attainable goals. You can do it! Using the suggestions from above and a bit of trial and error to find what works best for your family should get you on the path to well-rested children (and parents, too).

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