Instilling healthy sleep habits in children helps to set their foundation for proper mind and body development for the rest of their lives. It also enables parents to get some down time and a better night sleep for themselves. Many parents of toddlers to pre-teens are in a situation where it takes hours to get their children to bed and/or their kids aren’t sleeping soundly through the night. Fortunately, there are ways to help children to transition better from awake time to sleep time, as well as steps parents can take to make sleep more restful.
Set a routine – Start with making sure that there is ample time between the end of dinner and bedtime, giving the body time to digest before trying to send it off to sleep. Also keep in mind that sugar is only going to stimulate a child’s body, so it’s not the best idea to end the evening with a sugary treat. Once dinner is over, set up some relaxing activities along with the essentials of getting ready for bed. This can include bath time, getting pajamas on, brushing teeth, reading books and possibly listening to some relaxing, meditative music. There are some great music and meditation programs designed specifically for children to listen to at bedtime. As addressed below, television should not be part of the bedtime routine, so if watching a show is something that you want to incorporate in the evening, make it either right before or right after dinner, before the nighttime routine actually begins.
Provide the proper sleep environment – It’s important that the place where a child sleeps is conducive to relaxation. The bedroom should promote rest and a sense of peace with subtle colors and not too much clutter. It should also be free of too many electronic devices. A room painted red, filled with toys and video games stimulates a child’s brain, while a bedroom painted in a light, peaceful color, with toys put away and no electronic devices to be seen promotes a sense of rest. In addition, the darker the room at night, the better a child can sleep. Any light coming into the room at night, be it from a hall light, a nightlight, or from the windows, can confuse the pineal gland, which results in it making a lesser amount of melatonin. Melatonin is the hormone that is essential to a good, healthy night’s sleep. So forgo any lights and invest in some darkening blinds for your children’s bedrooms; you will see a difference.
No television, iPads or computers before bed – One mistake parents often make is letting their children watch a television show right before bed. Any device that emits blue light, such as iPads, television, computers and smart phones, actually inhibits the body’s self regulating release of melatonin, which usually starts to occur a few hours before bed. This makes it hard for a person to feel sleepy. Leaving any thing that emits a blue light on in the bedroom can inhibit the pineal gland from producing the melatonin at all while the light is being emitted.
Add essential oils to the bedtime routine – There are some great essential oil combinations that can help the body to relax. Two that are safe for children are lavender and roman chamomile. You can diffuse some by the bedside or apply a drop or two to the bottoms of the feet. Both oils have calming, soothing and relaxing properties.