Children require proper sleep for optimal health. Sleep deprivation may place your child at a higher risk of developing physical and emotional problems, as well as interfere with academic performance in school.
Lack of sleep may also make your child more prone to depression or anxiety. If you are concerned that your child may not be getting adequate sleep, there are a few aspects to consider. Here are some simple Dos and Don'ts to help ensure your child sleeps well.
1. DO Eliminate Caffeine, Especially Late in the Day
Many soft drinks, as well as chocolate, coffee, tea and cocoa contain caffeine. Caffeine is a stimulant which may make your child feel hyper and restless at bedtime. To play it safe, don't allow your child to consume caffeinated beverages or food, especially late in day. Keep in mind that caffeine may remain in the system for several hours.
Experts say that children under the age of 12 should not consume any amount of caffeine. If you are unsure about a product, read the label to note whether the food or drink contains caffeine.
2. DON'T Allow Video Games and TV Before Bedtime
Watching television programs and playing video games shortly before bedtime may be too stimulating for some children. The bright lights that devices emit may interfere with the body's natural circadian rhythm, and keep your child from falling asleep.
Schedule your child's screen time and stick to it. Video games, TV, and mobile devices should be shut off a few hours before bedtime. In addition, use a blue light filter on mobile devices, as the blue light may interfere with sleep.
3. DO Encourage Daily Exercise
Researchers believe that inactivity may delay sleep for children. This means that children who receive regular exercise are more likely to sleep better at night by falling asleep faster and staying asleep longer.
If your child is not getting enough restful sleep, encourage routine exercise. Participating in sports may be helpful, but there are other ways for your child to remain active. Walking, hiking, or riding a bike can be fun and beneficial. Your child should exercise during the daytime hours and not immediately before bed.
4. DON'T Be Inconsistent With Bedtime Schedules and Routines
Your child may do best with a regular bedtime routine. Whatever routine you chose to do, be consistent.
A nightly routine may help your child sleep better as well. Bedtime routines may include story time for toddlers and pre-school children. Keep the stories light and pleasant, without frightening parts. A comforting bedtime bath may also be helpful and relaxing.
Older school-age children may be allowed to read before bedtime. A light snack or a family chat around the kitchen table may also be relaxing before bed. Whatever routine is established, be consistent.
5. DO Check Your Child's Sleeping Environment
Is your child's bedroom comfortable? The sleeping environment will play a key role in the quality of sleep your child receives. Be sure the bedroom is not drafty or too warm. Room temperature should be comfortable and conducive to sleep.
Your child's mattress and pillow should be comfortable as well. Pillows should be supportive and the mattress should not sag. In addition, be sure the blinds or curtains are drawn so light noes not enter into the bedroom. If there is noise from outdoor traffic, consider buying a sleep machine with soothing sounds that may help your child fall asleep.
If the above tips don't seem to help your child sleep, consult your child's pediatrician. An examination may rule out any physical causes which may be interfering with your child's sleep.