No matter what age you are, everybody needs similar things when trying to fall and stay asleep at night. We all need to feel safe, loved, comforted and tired at the end of the day to sleep deeply and peacefully. So how can you create these feelings for your little ones? Here are a few suggestions:
Get Enough Exercise
Being active and healthy throughout the day is important to both your waking and sleeping hours. Not only does exercise and good nutrition help you keep a healthy weight, increase your heart and lung health, reduce stress and help your self-esteem, but it also helps you sleep better at night. According to the National Sleep Foundation, most people sleep better and feel more alert during the day when they exercise for at least 150 minutes per week. Even this small amount of exercise resulted in a 65 percent improvement in sleep quality.
If your kids are having a hard time falling and staying asleep, look at their daily routines to see if they are getting enough exercise. Consider putting them in a sport, going for a walk after dinner or even playing an active game as a family.
Establish a Routine
Routines are important for people of all ages, but kids respond especially well to structure. You should establish a routine for bedtime just as you might for school, homework and meal times.
Start by dimming the lights and turning off any electronics two hours before bed. The lights and the electrical field given off by electronics can interfere with the production of melatonin, which is an important hormone for falling asleep.
Then, create a winding-down routine to help your child feel relaxed and sleepy. This might include taking a bath, reading a book or talking quietly. Especially for younger children, make sure to be an integral part of the routine—this will help them feel loved and secure, which will help reduce anxiety or stress during the night. For example, you can have your child pick out a favorite book and cuddle up while you read together.
Create a Conducive Environment
The sleeping environment can be a very important factor for helping your kids get a good night’s sleep. Their rooms should be dark, quiet and comfortable.
Turn off any lights in your child’s room including a TV, lamp or nightlight. If there are bright street lamps outside or if the sun comes in early in the morning, consider putting up dark shades or blinds to block out excess light. If your child is afraid of the dark, consider putting a nightlight in the hall that you can turn off once he or she is asleep or get one that turns off automatically after a certain amount of time.
Make sure the room is quiet so your child is relaxed and not distracted or stimulated. But, if the room is too quiet and your child is scared of noises the house may make, try turning on a fan, humidifier or a white noise machine. This little bit of noise may help your little ones feel secure so their minds can relax.
Finally, your child’s room should be comfortable and relaxing. Invest in a soft bed, sheets, blankets and pillows. Give your child a transitional object such as a stuffed animal or blanket to cuddle with. However, don’t overload your kid’s bed with items, either. Make sure the room is slightly cooler than its normal temperature so your child does not get too warm or cold during the night.