Healthy Sleep Habits and Hygiene in Young Children
Why do some children fall asleep fast and some don’t?
Well, in short because every child is different !
BUT there are some things that sleep researcher know can make sleep better. It may be that your child (OR YOU !!) can use some of these ideas to make sleep come easier….
Sleep hygiene refers to the behaviours and habits that surround the process of getting ready for bed and overall includes the two main areas of (1) bedtime routine , that is the lead up to bedtime and (2) environmental factors that might interfere with a good night’s sleep.
Although sleep hygiene issues also effect adults with sleep problems, the components are not always the same as those in children.
- Bedtime routine.
One of the most important things for developing healthy sleep habits and hygiene, which in turn will develop into long term sleep habits, is a regular and relaxing bedtime routine. Below is an example of a bedtime routine.
Example of a bedtime routine
|Dinner||5.30 -6.15 PM|
|Activity in lounge room – (no TV) until||6.45 PM|
|Bath or shower until||7.00 PM|
|Special time with parent(s) or sibling(s) in bed – reading, talking, massaging, relaxing, telling stories|
|Kisses and goodnights|
|Lights very low and/or a night-light.||7.30- 7.45 PM|
- Factors that might interfere with a good night’s sleep
It is important to remember that the things listed below will affect children in different ways.
- Too much exciting activity before bedtime. For example, jumping on the bed, running around the house ! Not only can this raise the body temperature which can make it hard to get to sleep but it makes children SO excited they can’t relax.
- Eating a big meal too close to bedtime or eating spicy foods or food high in sugar or salt. Digestion makes it hard to get to sleep.
- Drinking sugary of caffeinated drinks because caffeine is a stimulant, some would say a drug. It will arouse the body systems rather than relax it.
- Watching TV or playing computer games about I hour before bed. The light in the screens can actually wake children up and what they are watching is usually pretty exciting !
- Having a TV in the bedroom or watching TV to fall asleep. This takes away the opportunity to have a ‘wind down’ time which can make it easier to get to sleep.
- Having a room that is too cold or hot, has too little or too much light, or a bed that is uncomfortable.
Many children have no problems with falling asleep and staying asleep all night long. But some children do.
The very first thing a parent can do if their child has difficulty sleeping is to ensure that their child has a good, pleasant and regular bedtime routine and good sleep hygiene.
These are practical steps and simple to implement that can help if your child has difficulty getting to sleep or staying asleep. If these are not successful, then further incestigation of the sleep problem may be necessary.