Sleep hygiene is important for both adults and children. Parents can take tips from this article to teach the right sleep hygiene in children.
Sleep is important, but many of us, including children and adults, don't get enough of it. Improved sleep hygiene is one of the easiest ways to get back on track. This means establishing habits that promote a good night’s sleep, like setting a fixed routine. Parents should try to inculcate good sleeping habits in kids right from the beginning as they would follow sleep discipline throughout their life. In this article, Dr. Lini Balakrishnan, Consultant Paediatrician at Motherhood Hospital, Bangalore has explained the importance of sleep hygiene and some tips for parents to establish the same. Read this article and follow the suggestions to help your child sleep better.
Healthy Sleep Habits for Infants
Routines look different at different ages. Infants are not born with the same biological clock, for instance, which keeps us asleep at night and awake during the day. Instead, children can sleep for a couple of hours and then remain awake for a couple of hours, regardless of the time of day. This is perfectly normal behaviour for a new-born, so parents should let them stick to their natural drowsiness patterns—and try to sleep when they sleep. Parents should improve the normal sleep schedule by beginning a calming activity after an hour or so of an infant being awake to avoid getting an overtired baby. Through placing them in bright rooms during the daytime and dark rooms at night, parents may also help ease infants into the sleeping habits you want them to grow. They'll finally start sleeping more at night and napping less and less.
How To Maintain Sleep Hygiene in Children
When children get older, a defined bedtime should be included in a schedule, since they would sometimes want to stay up watching TV, playing games, or texting. And because after all the excitement they get from doing these activities, it can be difficult for children to fall asleep, the bedtime routine should also include some screen-free time before bed to help them wind down. The intention is for children to get drowsy while going to bed.
The basics of sleep hygiene for kids
Sleep can be avoided by eating big meals before bedtime. Consider the appropriate time to consume your dinner meal, meaning that a big meal is not consumed immediately beforehand if your child has an early bedtime. It may be preferable for your child to eat early on school nights, but at weekends and during holiday times, you can still have family meals. Some foods, however, can be helpful in helping your child calm down to sleep, such as a drink of warm milk.
Children can have trouble falling asleep if they are inactive all day long. Encouraging your child to do sports and play outdoors, where possible, will help to burn off stress and encourage your child to feel exhausted at the end of the day. Even if your kid is not very sporty, it can be helpful to just go for a walk in the fresh air. Exercise should, however, be avoided right before bedtime, as the heat produced by the muscles from exercise will keep your child from falling asleep.
The sleeping environment of your child should be a place where they feel comfortable and happy, but a place to sleep and not play should also be. The sleeping environment can be changed in many ways, but it will depend on your child's needs (and any other children sharing the room).
For example, some kids will discover that using a nightlight will make them feel comfortable, while others may sleep better in complete darkness. To ensure that your child is safe falling asleep, the bed temperature and noise level should be changed where possible.
If you notice that your child is stimulated by toys, it might be better to remove them from the room before bedtime or to hold toys in a separate area of the house. The bedroom of your child does not include items that distract them from sleeping.
Using electronic devices close to bedtime (such as televisions, cell phones and tablet computers) will keep your child from sleeping. This is because they produce light that is effective at suppressing sleepiness-causing natural hormones in the brain.
Consider replacing this ritual with a bedtime story or playing relaxing music if your child uses these devices to help them fall asleep.
If your child wakes frequently in the night, it is crucial that they learn to calm down instead of finding a parent or joining the bed of a parent. This can be hard to execute and can be emotionally difficult for both children and parents, but parents should stay strong and assertive.
You should try not to engage them in conversation if your child leaves their bed and seeks you out at night, but direct them back to bed peacefully and instantly. This may need to be repeated many times each night, but it is important for your child to understand that each time they receive the same answer from you.
If your child is nervous, it can help them to feel comfortable and learn to calm down by using a night light, cuddly toy or baby monitor. It can help to encourage good behaviour by thanking your child in the morning for staying in bed at night. This can be helped by using an incentive chart or stickers, with a small token prize when a certain amount of stickers/rewards have been won.
Disclaimer: It is always a good idea to see a paediatrician if your child is unable to sleep properly and these sleep hygiene habits also seem to not work. Children shouldn't be given sleep medicine, but other treatments do help. Children will learn calming and self-soothing strategies to help them fall asleep, and there are cognitive resources that support them as they grow older.
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