Keeping our kids healthy and happy is a major part of parenting, and it’s not always easy to do.
Raising resilient kids with a strong immune system requires a healthy diet, regular appointments with your medical care provider, and a proper amount of sleep.
But, creating a solid sleep schedule can come with challenges, no matter what age your children are.
From helping them unwind after a busy day to ensuring nighttime noise doesn’t jar them awake, there are all kinds of ways to help kids sleep better.
If your kids are struggling with getting proper sleep, start by trying these seven ways to help kids sleep better:
Create a Bedtime Routine
It’s been consistently shown that getting a proper night’s sleep is made much easier by sticking to a regular nightly schedule.
For younger children, this bedtime routine may include taking a bath, brushing their teeth, and reading a nighttime book together.
For older children, a good bedtime routine might involve putting away electronics, listening to some relaxing music, and having a cup of herbal tea.
Regardless of the exact activities in your children’s bedtime routine, the important part is that it starts at the same time each night and is done in the same order.
This way, the body starts to anticipate the activities leading up to bedtime and prepares for falling asleep.
Maintain Consistent Sleep and Waking Hours
In much the same way that a bedtime routine should start at the same time every night, kids will sleep much better if they go to bed and wake up at a consistent time.
If your child has trouble sleeping during the week, but is notorious for sleeping in on weekends, the simple change of having them wake up at the same time all week can help lead to better sleep.
While it’s okay to make an exception every once in a while for special events or holidays, regular sleeping and waking times are essential for helping regulate a child’s internal clock.
Keep An Eye On Napping
While most children under five have at least one nap a day, shortening the length of nap time may be a way to help little ones sleep better at night.
Try to ensure that kids under five are sleeping no more than an hour. Ideally, having your little one nap earlier in the day is also a good way to help ensure they’re ready to sleep when bedtime arrives.
If your child is still napping after age five, it may be time to start working towards eliminating nap time altogether.
Check Noise and Light in the Bedroom
Excess noise and light can not only prevent your kids from falling asleep, it can cause them to wake up sporadically after drifting off.
Check your child’s room to make sure noise from the street or from the rest of the house isn’t disturbing their sleep.
If you notice an issue, an inexpensive white noise machine may be the perfect solution to help drown out the background noise and encourage better sleep.
Similarly, light can prevent your child’s body from producing melatonin, the hormone that causes sleepiness.
Try to keep the room completely dark for the best possible sleep environment. If your little one insists on a nightlight, get the dimmest one possible and consider putting it on a timer.
Eat the Right Foods at the Right Time
Teaching kids to eat healthy is an important part of parenting, and it can also help ensure that they’re getting a proper night’s sleep.
Getting to sleep is much harder for kids if they’ve just had a big, heavy meal or filled their stomachs with unhealthy snacks.
Instead, plan for the final meal of the day to take place 2-3 hours before your little one’s bedtime.
If they’re still hungry shortly before bed, keep snacks small and healthy. A piece of fruit, some yogurt, or a handful of raw nuts and seeds are all good before-bed choices.
Allow for Lots of Natural Light During the Day
Just as darkness triggers the body to produce melatonin, natural light signals the body to produce serotonin, the hormone that makes us feel awake and alert.
By ensuring your children get plenty of natural light during the day, their bodies are able to create a proper rhythm of wakefulness and sleepiness.
The cycle is called a circadian rhythm, and it helps move your child from their high-energy wakeful hours to peaceful sleep.
Exposure to natural light is even being explored as a treatment for numerous medical conditions, ranging from insomnia to depression.
While caffeine may not be a concern for younger children, it is present in some of the food and drink that older children might be consuming.
Remember that it’s not just coffee, tea, and energy drinks that contain caffeine. Chocolate, coffee-flavored ice cream, and some soft drinks are also a source of the common stimulant.
Simply eliminating chocolate, cola, and other foods containing caffeine may be enough to help your little ones sleep more soundly.
If they do indulge in treats containing caffeine occasionally, make sure that the foods aren’t consumed in the late afternoon or evening to help ensure better rest.
Your child’s physical health, intellectual function, emotional welfare, safety, and capacity to operate daily all depend on him or her getting adequate sleep each night.
A child’s ability to learn may be negatively impacted, leading to mood swings and other behavioral issues if they don’t get enough sleep or sleep properly.