At every age of childhood, kids can struggle with sleep disruptions and problems. And we know that a lack of sleep can have a major impact on children’s health and wellbeing. So, what should you do if your child is having trouble falling or staying asleep? Let’s discuss the importance of sleep for kids and the steps you can take.
Have a Consistent Bedtime Routine
Whatever you do in your bedtime routine, the most important feature is consistency. Baths, brushing teeth, reading, snuggles, singing, talking, dimming the lights, playing an audiobook or soft music are all great options, as long as they are done the same way each night. They also need to be done at the same time, and in the same order. That is because a child’s brain needs signals to begin preparing for sleep, and the more consistent you are with the routine, the more effective it will be.
Practice Good Sleep Hygiene
Sleep hygiene refers to good habits to include and avoid before and during sleep time. Good sleep hygiene includes the following: Going to bed at the same time every night. Waking up at the same time in the morning. Limiting caffeine in the eight hours before bed. Avoiding electronics use, especially phones and tablets, in the hour before bed. And keeping the room dark, cool and comfortable for sleep.
Consider Possible Stressors
If your child has a sudden onset of night waking, trouble falling asleep, nightmares or night terrors, you may consider possible external factors. Did your child experience a stressful event? Is there a big change like a move, a new teacher, or a new school? Did they experience a first bad grade or an argument with a friend? In most cases, these issues will resolve over time as you help and support the child as they work through these events.
What About Melatonin?
If none of the above tips are helping your child sleep, we recommend you have a conversation with your pediatrician about your options. In general, pediatricians agree that melatonin use should be a cautious and short term solution for children.