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Alaska Sleep Education Center

7 Tips and Tricks for Getting Kids to Sleep at Night

Posted by Kevin Phillips

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on Oct 21, 2014 6:11:00 PM

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When it comes to children and sleep, one of the most frequent concerns from parents is how to get them to bed on time every night. Nearly every parent has had to deal with the difficulty of putting a child to bed at some point, and for a lot of parents, bedtime is a recurring nightmare. It seems strange that kids require much more sleep than adults do, yet many resist going to sleep with every fiber in their body. This can cause a strain on both parents and children and lead to poor sleep for everybody in the household.

So how do you get your kids to go to sleep at night? And more importantly how do you get them to go to sleep at night regularly? Here we give you 7 tips on getting your kids to bed on time everynight:

  1. Know how much sleep your child should be getting. Based on your child's age, they will require various amounts of sleep. From total hours slept everyday, to how many hours a night they sleep, to typical napping habits, understanding your child's sleeping needs will help you set limitations and bedtime rules for your kids.

    Here is a generalized guideline to how much sleep your child needs based on their age:

    • 1 to 4 weeks old- Newborns sleep approximately 16-17 hours a day with periods of wakefulness lasting 1-3 hours. However, most newborns have not developed a night/day sleep cycle, so their periods of sleep and wakefulness can vary to all hours of the day. Most parents will have to adjust their own sleep schedules to accommodate newborns.

    • baby_sleeping1 to 4 months old- Babies of this age still tend to sleep about the same amount of hours, but their night/day sleep cycles begin to kick in, allowing them to sleep longer at night, although they still wake for feedings and changes.

    • 4 months to 1 year- Babies of this age still require between 14-15 hours of sleep everyday. However, many of them are able to sleep through most of the night, and take up to 3 naps during the day and evening. During this period it is important to really begin to establish healthy sleep habits for your child.

    • 1 to 3 years- Most toddlers need about 12-14 hours of sleep, but often get less due to the schedules of parents and older children in the house. They will more than likely lose their early morning nap and early evening nap and tend to only take one nap a day.

    • 3 to 6 years- Approximately 11-12 hours of sleep. Younger children of this group may still require a short nap during the day, but the need to nap usually diminishes by the time they enter the first grade.

    • 7 to 12 years- Children of these age groups tend to need about 10-12 hours of nightly sleep but often only get about 9-10 hours.

    • 13 to 18 years- Teens of this age require about 8-10 hours of sleep, but rarely get the full amount they need. The demands of schoolwork, after school programs and activities often cut into their nightly sleep. Most teens reports getting about 6-8 hours of sleep.

     

  2. Make bedtime a routine. Creating a bedtime routine for children can take the stress out of bedtime for both the parents and the child. Kids crave and thrive on structure, as it gives them a sense of safety and security. Getting your child into a nightly bedtime routine helps them develop sleep associations that helps prepare them for bedtime.

    It's a good idea to begin the bedtime ritual with a wind down period that begins 15-30 minutes before their actual bedtime routine begins. This can include turning off the TV, playing relaxing music, dimming lights, talking softer, and even moving slower. All of these subtle changes are cues that your child will pick up as signs that bedtime is approaching.

    Actual bedtime routines can comprise of many relaxing and sleep promoting activities. Here is a typical bedtime routine:

    • A relaxing bath

    • Putting on pajamas

    • Brushing their teeth

    • Story time in bed

    • Goodnight kisses

    The routine itself can be altered or changed entirely depending on what you find works for your child's individual needs. It's not so much the components of the routine that are important, but the consistency that is key.

  3. Create an ideal sleeping environment. Your child's room should help promote sleeping. It's best to keep their room dark, quiet, and cool. Some children (especially the very young) want at least a little light in their room, so a nightlight or a dim light is perfectly acceptable. If they can't sleep in silence or you want to drown out some of the noises from the rest of the house, use a noise machine or a fan to create a rhythmic, steady sound.

  4. keep electronics out of bedroomTurn off electronics. Remove televisions, computers, games, and other electronic devices from their rooms. These devices promote wakefulness through both stimulating content as well as the light emitting from them which mimics daylight and tricks the brain into thinking it needs to stay awake. Electronics should be turned off or taken away at least an hour before bedtime. Allowing TV's and computers in their rooms provides them with possible distractions that you won't be able to control once you're out of the room.

  5. Make sure they get  regular exercise. It's important that your children get plenty of exercise during the day which will help them wind down quicker at night. However, keep their last playtime at least 3 hours before bedtime or they may still be too stimulated for sleep.

  6. Avoid meals and caffeine before bedtime. Caffeine is a stimulant and not very good for children anyways. However, if you do allow your child the occasional soft drink, make sure that they don't have any drinks containing sugar and caffeine within 3 hours of bedtime. Snacks are perfectly acceptable before bedtime as long as they're healthy and not very filling. If your child asks for a food or drink before bedtime give them a warm glass of milk, or a light healthy snack such as fruit or crackers.

  7. Be on the lookout for signs of sleep disorders. If you've established a consistent bedtime routine and made adjustments to fit your child's individual needs and they are still having difficulties with sleeping, your child  may have a sleep disorder. Keep a close eye on both your child's nighttime sleeping behaviors and patterns as well as how they function during the day. If they are chronically tired during the day, have difficulty concentrating on homework, or have behavioral problems at home or school, it could be a sign of an underlying sleep disorder.

If you suspect that your child may have a sleep disorder, talk with your child's pediatrician about their sleep habits, or schedule an appointment with a sleep specialist. Here at The Alaska Sleep Clinic we have staff and facilities designated to accommodate children with sleep disorders. Our goal in treating children is to make them feel as safe and comfortable as if they were in their own home while undergoing diagnosis. To schedule an appointment or to recieve a free 10 minute phone consultation, click on the link below.


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Topics: Sleep Tips, sleep and children, Pediatrics, children

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