From birth, sleep is established as a critical element to overall health and general wellbeing. Getting adequate amounts of sleep helps the body to function at its highest level. When children are young, sleep is something they need, but might not be too interested in, instead favoring a couple extra minutes of playing outside or watching TV. Make bedtime a little easier on everyone with these tips for developing sleep schedules and forming healthy sleep habits.
Develop a sleep routine
Sleep is important to help to build cogitative bridges and encourage mental development, so it is important your child is getting enough sleep each night. For newborns, sleep happens around the clock, and they can snooze anywhere from 16 to 20 hours each day. As they get older and start school, they need anywhere from seven to nine hours. The best way to help your children sleep well is to establish a nightly routine to get them ready to sleep soundly once their head hits the pillow. Some frequently used routines include having a light snack, taking a bath, changing into pajamas and reading bedtime stories up to an hour before bedtime. Young children appreciate routines and adhering to one helps children associate these tasks with sleep.
Stick to the routine (but make adjustments when necessary)
The hardest part of creating a routine is the discipline to stick to it. Make it a daily habit to stick to the routine you have created and do your best to keep it up when you’re traveling or away from home. By keeping things familiar, it will help to alert children that things are still the same and it’s time for bed. When you do return home, start the routine again, following it even when it gets difficult. Daytime naps are also important to young children’s sleep schedules and should be utilized when necessary. Make sure to have naptime at the same time every day with an associated routine, such as right after you have lunch or snack time.
Continue healthy sleep habits
As children age, it’s important to help them learn healthy sleep habits. If started early, these habits will stick with them for the rest of their lives. Here are a few common healthy sleep practices:
- Encourage children to fall asleep alone, in their own beds
- Waking up and going to bed at the same time each morning and night
- Discourage nighttime awakenings or re-entering the room after you’ve said goodnight
- Exercise or get active multiple times a week and eat a balanced diet
- Create a soothing bedroom environment
- Limiting the use of technology in the bedroom
No matter what age you are, developing good sleep habits is important. When children are younger, it is important to watch for any sleep problems that may become more obvious as they age, such as nightmares, sleep terrors, sleep walking, sleep apnea and narcolepsy. You can you learn more about each of these, as well as symptoms and signs from our Resources page. If you think your child may be developing any of these sleep disorders or is experiencing difficulties falling and staying asleep, talk to one of our Iowa Sleep doctors to learn more or set up a consultation.