Sleep Health

How to help your child sleep at night


Everyone has different sleep requirements depending on their age and stage of life. It can sometimes be difficult for children to wind down at the end of the day, or teens to prioritise sleep with their many commitments. However, it is not as hard as you think. The most important thing you can do as a first step is to sit with them and come up with a plan together as a family. Educating yourself and your children will make the transition easier and this in turn will help you adopt better sleep habits for you and your family.

How can I help my young children?

  • Bedtime routines are very important for young children. Have a strict bedtime and wake time.
  • A night-time ritual is also important for a child’s healthy sleep. This could include reading a book together, taking a bath or a lullaby.
  • A bed time toy such as a stuffed animal is a good way for your child to associate it with winding down and going to sleep.
  • Weighted blankets apply deep pressure, in order to give you that 'hugged' feeling and are very good for restless children. Many kids who suffer from ADHD/ADD or autism have sensory issues and weighted blankets have been shown to help.
  • Light plays an important role in the story of sleep. Encourage your child to get as much natural light during the day as possible but limit their exposure to light in the evening so that their brain can start to produce the sleep promoting hormone, melatonin.
  • Artificial blue light from phones, computer screens and TVs can negatively affect your child’s sleep. Make sure to turn these devices off one hour before bedtime and keep all of these items out of the bedroom. Remember, children role model, so restrict your evening use of these devices and be sure to set a good example, and use them only when your child goes to bed. Always remember though to switch off at least one hour before your bedtime.
  • 1hr prior to bedtime, dim the lights in the living room and bedroom. This will promote relaxation and calm and make the connection to bed time coming up soon.
  • Avoid having too many toys in the bedroom. You want your child to associate bed time with relaxation and quietness and not with the overstimulation of toys and playtime. Ideally, keep the bedroom for sleep and rejuvenation not playtime.
  • Avoid heavy meals or foods high in sugar before bed as these can disrupt your child’s sleep and keep them alert longer.
  • A quiet bedroom is important for promoting a restful night so apart from sleep-inducing sounds like white noise it is best to keep music and other noises to a minimum in your child’s bedroom.
  • Napping is natural for most children. Once your child reaches 5 years of age, it is best to make sure these naps are no longer than 20-30 minutes so that their night time sleep is not disrupted.

How can I help my teenage kids?

  • It is common for teenagers to find it difficult to get to sleep at night because for some, as a result of puberty, their intrinsic day is extended beyond 24 hours, and is consequently they are not ready for sleep until late in the night. Because there is little flexibility with wakeup time, this often results in the teenager suffering sleep deprivation, leaving them tired and unmotivated during the day.
  • With so many commitments such as work, school, chores, social life and sports it can be difficult to make time for sleep.
  • This can have a negative effect on academic performance and mental health.
  • Sleep is especially important for teens as good sleep has a positive impact on physical, mental and emotional development.
  • Teens have a demanding schedule such as school, homework and after-school activities. Spend some time with your child to review their schedule. Have they taken on too much? What can be trimmed? Make sure they don’t over commit and overload themselves.
  • Encourage them to free up any after-school commitments a few days during the week so that they can use this time to wind down and sleep.
  • Having a routine is important for a good night’s sleep. One of these routines is sleeping in the same place every night. Avoid dozing off on the couch or in front of the computer.
  • Spending too much time in front of a computer or phone screen can negatively impact on your sleep quality. It is important to try and limit exposure to these blue-light emitting devices. Blue light causes them to be more alert so it is best to stop using these 1 hour prior to bed.
  • Sit down with your child and come up with an appropriate time limit for homework if possible.
  • Energy drinks and caffeine rich drinks such as coffee are a go-to for a lot of teens but should be avoided
  • Encourage your child to have a night time ritual before bed. This can help them ease into sleep such as reading, a relaxing bath, a sleep mist spray that you can use on your body or your linen and a soothing cup of Sleepy Time tea.
  • If possible, a power nap of 20 minutes after school can help your child recharge. Be sure to limit the nap to 20 minutes as by doing this you will feel more energised during the evening hours but your ability to get to sleep that night will not be affected.
  • With their demanding schedule, it is not uncommon for teens to have a racing mind and to worry before or during sleep. Mindfulness exercises and calming rituals such as yoga and meditation are a great way to de-stress and be less anxious.

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