Living Well: Teaching children good sleep habits
By Dr. Julia Pickens
Ministry Medical Group, Rhinelander
Good sleep habits are an important life skill. You can encourage good sleep patterns in very young children. Here are some useful tips to make good sleep a habit:
• Use the time after dinner as a time of deceleration from the day. Avoid loud, rambunctious activities within the hour before bed.
• Spend time together with your child in a bedtime routine that you can replicate night after night. Use hugs and cuddles but be clear that the routine ends with “lights out.”
• Establish a regular bedtime and stick with it as much as possible, even on weekends and during vacations. Give some thought to your child’s sleep needs, but recognize that most school-aged children need 9 or 10 hours of sleep.
• Remember that most children catch a “second wind” when they stay up late. They may seem able to run on less sleep, but they probably become more difficult to manage, moodier, less cooperative…and they may have a harder time falling asleep subsequently.
• Some children are very soothed by white noise such as fans or cool mist vaporizers
• Make sure your child is physically active and enjoys a wide variety of activities during the day.
• Keep your child’s bed a place to sleep, not a toy-yard.
• Do not use your child’s bed for time-out.
• Use water, not juice or milk when your child is thirsty at night. Avoid soda with caffeine or sugar always.
• Use lighting to your advantage. Use dim lighting in the evening and at night. Use bright lighting in the morning, including open curtains for sunlight.
• Limit your child’s TV/movie/computer/screen time viewing to 1 hour per day to encourage interaction and physical activity.
Studies indicate that the light emitted from computers, phones and other electronics can disrupt sleep and make it very difficult to fall asleep. Although watching a show on the computer might be part of a bedtime routine, we should all consider filtering the blue light from electronics.
Common sleep problems for children include difficulty settling, night terrors, nightmares, and night waking. If you are concerned about your child’s sleep or other aspects of development, contact your Pediatrician.
Dr. Julia Pickens is a Pediatrician with Ministry Medical Group in Rhinelander