Most parents and caregivers know that a good night of sleep can help set up their child for a better day. But parents often find it hard to make sure their child or teen gets a healthy night of sleep. This might be made even harder by the COVID-19 pandemic and other stressful current events! We have summarized a research-based tips on sleep that may be helpful.
Maintain a consistent sleep schedule.
Maintaining a consistent sleep schedule can help ensure that your child or teen has healthy sleep. How can you help your child have a consistent sleep schedule? Of course, this is easier said than done!
Start by tracking your child’s sleep.
You and your child can keep a diary of their sleep for a week or more – when do they usually go to bed and wake up? How many hours of sleep does your child need or want? Use that as a starting point to help you and your child figure out a schedule that is healthy and practical. That schedule may need to be a bit different during the week then on the weekend, but try to keep the schedules as similar as possible.
How can you help your child adjust to a sleep schedule?
Once you figure out a potential schedule, it might be hard for your child to immediately adjust. How can you help your child adjust to a sleep schedule?
Set up a relaxing bed time routine. What helps your child feel relaxed and peaceful? Maybe a bath? Storytime? Listening to music? Deep breathing? Petting with their dog or cat? Try to be creative and experiment with different ways to relax and wind down!
Avoid caffeine in the afternoon or evening. You’d be surprised how many drinks or foods have caffeine in them that are not coffee - soda, sweet tea, or chocolate all have different amount of caffeine! Kids may feel the effects of caffeine hours after they consume it, which makes this a really common for a lot of kids. Limiting caffeine may help you child fall asleep and stay asleep.
Avoid technology before bed. A lot of kids may think that their phone or TV actually helps them fall asleep, but research shows that the light from screens makes people feel awake. This may be a tough change for your kid (and you!) so if you make this change, you may want to do this gradually.
Avoid meals before bed. Avoiding eating right before bed can also help your child feel sleepy. One way to make sure they are not hungry before bed is to try to have consistent meal times.
Address stress or worries. Research shows that not only can sleep affect how your child or teen feels the next day, but also how they are feeling may make it harder for them to fall asleep and stay asleep at night. Right now, your child may feel really stressed or worried because of all of the changes in their life. One way to help your child relax is to openly talk about their worries. They might even have worries you don’t know about if you haven’t asked them yet! It may help if you say you’re worried or stressed too so that they feel less alone. You and your child or teen could work on making a “worry list” before bed so that they get some anxiety out of their system.
If you’re concerned that your child’s sleep problems are becoming too hard for you to manage yourself, we recommend reaching out to a professional. Start by talking to your child’s pediatrician about your concerns. Your insurance provider may also be able to provide referrals.
Looking for more information?
The Pediatric Sleep Council provides a lot of helpful information, including videos with experts on sleep
Quick Fact Sheets: COVID-19 Sleep Tips