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8 Tips to Improve Your Child's Sleep

Helping your child to catch some Zs

Children's sleep is important to their growth, development, and emotional well-being (as well as to a parent's emotional well-being).  Below are 8 tips to help to improve your child's sleep.

1) Have a bed time routine. 

A bed time routine helps your child to transition from the day's activities to sleep. Have the same bed time routine every night, whether it involves a bath, teeth brushing, and reading a story, or singing a song while sitting with Mom or Dad.

2) Have a set bed time and wake-up time (even on weekends).

A child's internal clock helps them to get sleepy and feel awake at specific times during the day.  If you allow your child to sleep in on the weekends, that will make it more difficult for your child to wake up at the regular time during the school week.  Similarly, if you allow your child to stay up late at night on weekends, he/she will have a harder time falling asleep at the regular bed time on school nights.

3) Make your child's room a relaxing and comforting place.

Often parents will send a child to their room or to bed as a punishment.  If this occurs, a child will begin to think of going to bed as a bad thing that happens if he/she misbehaves. Instead, you want the child to think of bed as being a relaxing and comforting place that the child goes to when the child is tired. Put your child in time out or take away a privelege as a punishment but do not send your child to bed early. If you need to put your child in a time out, don't use the child's room as a time-out location.

4) Don't do anything energizing close to bed. 

This includes watching a stimulating movie or reading a stimulating book. You want the child to relax, not get energized right before bed.

5) Teach your child how to self-soothe and fall asleep independently. 

There is nothing that I enjoy more than cuddling my kid in a snuggly bed.  But if your goal is to have your child sleep in his/her own bed, then you need to help your child learn how to fall asleep without you present. If you are always present when your child falls asleep at night, your child will begin to depend on your presence to help him/her to fall asleep. Instead, put your child to bed when he/she is sleepy but has not yet fallen asleep and leave your child's room before he/she falls asleep. This allows your child to associate sleepiness with his/her bed and also allows your child to learn to self-soothe. 

6) If your child has a hard time falling asleeping without you (and you want your child to be able to sleep in his/her own bed), send your child to sleep with something that smells like you.

You could sleep with one of your child's stuffed animals for a few nights or put a t-shirt that you wore on one of your child's stuffed animals. Then have your child sleep with the stuffed animal.  This way your child will smell you when your child needs comfort. Eventually, your child will begin to associate comfort with the stuffed animal (even if it doesn't have your smell on it).

7) Make sure that your child is getting enough sleep.

Many times parents are unclear about just how many hours of sleep a child needs. Parents know that kids need more sleep than most adults, but are unaware of just how many hours a child needs.  The National Sleep Foundation has a great chart that explains the sleep needs for kids of various ages: http://www.sleepfoundation.org/article/how-sleep-works/how-much-sleep-do-we-really-need

8) Avoid giving your child caffeine close to bedtime.

This may seem obvious, but caffeine close to bedtime will make it more difficult for your child to fall asleep.

 

Please note that I am not commenting on Attachment Parenting or the tenants it. I am simply describing sleep hygiene practices based on research data and what is advocated by many pediatric sleep specialists. 

For more information about child sleep, please see:

National Sleep Foundation: http://www.sleepfoundation.org/article/sleep-topics/children-and-...

Take Charge of Your Child's Sleep by Judith Owens and Jodi Mindell http://www.amazon.com/Take-Charge-Your-Childs-Sleep/dp/156924362X...

Sleeping Through the Night, Revised Edition: How Infants, Toddlers, and Their Parents Can Get a Good Night's SleepSleeping Through the Nightby Jodi Mindell  http://www.amazon.com/Sleeping-Through-Night-Revised-Toddlers/dp/...

Or schedule an appointment with a sleep specialist in your area:

See the following website for a searchable database of sleep specialists:

http://www.sleepfoundation.org/find-sleep-professional

 

Copyright Amy Przeworski.  This post and all portions of this post may NOT be duplicated or posted elsewhere (including on other websites) without permission of the author.

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Check out some of my related blog posts:

12 Tips to Reduce your Child's Stress and Anxiety: http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/dont-worry-mom/201302/12-tips-reduce-your-childs-stress-and-anxiety

Mommy Chill Out: http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/dont-worry-mom/201303/mommy-c...

 

Amy Przeworski, Ph.D., is an assistant professor of psychology at Case Western Reserve University and specializes in anxiety disorders in children, adolescents, and adults.

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