The Ultimate Guide to Helping Your Kids Sleep Better
Better Sleep, Better Health for Your Kids
For kids, not getting enough good sleep can result in behavior changes, poor grades at school, and high levels of emotional stress. It’s your responsibility as a parent to ensure your kids are sleeping well at night.
Keep reading to learn why sleep is important for your children and how you can help them sleep better at night.
Why do Kids Need Sleep?
Kids have busy days. They wake up early in the morning and then spend anywhere from six to eight hours at school. Tack on extracurricular activities, and some kids spend 10-plus hours away from home.
9.5 hours: the amount of sleep the average kid gets each night
10-11 hours: the amount of sleep children need, according to experts
Researchers believe kids who get too little sleep have a greater likelihood of suffering from immune system disorders, causing them to get sick more often.
Better sleep helps:
Experts have confirmed sleep protects children from cardiovascular damage.
Promote healthy growth:
Growth hormones responsible for strengthening the nervous system and weight management are released when sleeping.
Lack of good sleep during the first three years of life can lead to hyperactivity and poor levels of cognitive performance later on in life.
4 Stages of Sleep
Children repeat sleep stages 2-4 every 90 minutes, about four to five times a night.
Stage 1: Lightest Stage of Sleep
Slow eye movements start
Drowsy sleep stage
Brain activity starts to slow down
Muscles start to relax
Hypnic jerks/abrupt muscle spasms are common
Stage 2: Slightly Deeper Sleep
Awakenings don’t occur as easily
Slow eye movements discontinue
Brain activity continues to slow down, but bursts of rapid activity occur
Body temperature starts to decrease
Heart rate begins to slow
Stage 3: Slow-Wave Sleep
Most restorative stage of sleep
Awakenings occur rarely
Sleepwalking, sleep talking, and night terrors are common
Stage 4: REM Sleep
Rapid eye movements
Awakenings can occur more easily and will leave the child feeling extremely confused and groggy
Heart beats faster
Breathing is less regular
Tips for Helping Your Child Sleep Better
Sleep rejuvenates the body. Not getting enough sleep impacts your child’s ability to think clearly, which can significantly impact school grades. Sleep is important for performing well in sports and following directions from parents and teachers.
Use these tips to help your child achieve better sleep:
Make Bedtime a Priority
Make bedtime a priority every night to ensure your child gets at least 10 hours of sleep.
Create a calm nighttime routine which includes a comforting bedtime story.
Reading before bed has been show to have many benefits.
Complete all rigorous activity two hours before bedtime.
Give the child time to eat a healthy snack before bed (no caffeine).
Enforce a Bedtime on Weekends
Follow bedtimes on weekends to stay in the habit of prioritizing sleep.
Push bedtime by an hour or two on weekends, but only if the child is able to sleep in the following morning.
Don’t allow the child to sleep past 9 a.m. on weekends to stay in the habit of waking up early.
Create a Sleep-Friendly Environment
Treat the bedroom as a sanctuary where no electronics are allowed. Bright lights suppress melatonin production, a hormone that promotes deep sleep. The darker, the better, though.
Use window coverings to block out light from outside.
Install a dim nightlight if the child doesn’t want to sleep in complete darkness.
Clear clutter from the room to prevent triggering excitatory sensory input; this helps the child ease into sleepiness.
Use white noise to create calm and block out waking noises.
Create a cooler sleeping environment. Studies show that children sleep better, longer and deeper when the temperature is between 63 and 68.
Consider the use of a sleep aid product.
“The light of the screen wakes our brains very effectively. It’s true for adults, too. Even if kids use their phones just to check the time, it’s like a little shot of caffeine to their brain.” — Deborah Gilboa, MD.
Don’t Use Sleep as a Punishment
Don’t send your child to bed as a form of punishment. The goal is to treat sleep as a positive experience.
Don’t allow your child to stay up late as a reward for good behavior; this sends mixed messages about sleep.
Explain why sleep is important so your child doesn’t view bedtime in a negative manner.
Make Sure Your Child Feels Safe
Follow your child’s wishes on leaving the door cracked or needing a nightlight. The goal is to make them feel safe.
Sometimes a child will feel safer and less anxious with a weighted blanket.
Many children will benefit from having a few stuffed animals or a special blanket.
Avoid watching scary movies
Keep a watchful eye on the electronic games your child plays; games with violence can evoke nightmares.
Listen to your child’s fears and assure them everyone is safe.
Expose Your Child to Natural Light During the Day
Natural light suppresses the production of melatonin. Ensure your child spends plenty of time in natural light during the morning and early afternoon hours to feel alert during the daytime and sleepy at nighttime.
Open your child’s window coverings during the morning and day.
Encourage outdoor playtime up to three hours before bedtime.
Invest in a Quality Mattress
A child spends about 3,923 hours each year sleeping.8 Investing in a quality kids mattress is a great way to help your child get better sleep. When purchasing a mattress for your child, look for the following characteristics.
Support to minimize motion transfer
Padded top to maximize comfort
Body temperature regulation features
100% free of chemicals like formaldehyde, GMO-sourced components, foam vinyl, and PVCs
Every child deserves a restful night of sleep. Check out OnlineMattressReview.com to find the perfect mattress for your sweet bundle of joy.
Additional Resources on Kids and Sleep