Establish a Consistent Bedtime Routine
To help you stick with a regular sleep schedule, a bedtime routine helps signal to the body that it’s time to get ready to fall asleep. Engage in calming activities such as reading a book, taking a warm bath, or practicing gentle stretches to relax muscles.
Establishing a fixed bedtime routine with quiet activities like story-telling or listening to soft music, followed by brushing teeth, can help your child fall asleep faster and adopt good sleep habits.
Need help getting back into a routine? Try these.
Minimize Digital Devices
Digital devices such as smartphones, tablets, gaming devices can significantly interfere with healthy sleep if used too close to bedtime. The blue light emanating from electronic screens can interfere with the natural production of melatonin, making it much harder for your child to fall asleep. Encourage your child to wind down from technology use at least an hour before bedtime (and 2 hours if they struggle with sleep) by engaging in calm activities like reading, drawing, or writing in a journal.
New research shows that even dim light exposure in the hour before bedtime can cause trouble sleeping in young children, as it creates ‘robust and sustained melatonin suppression’ (2). Researchers also found that melatonin levels did not rebound to normal levels even 2 hours after light exposure before bedtime.
Foster a Peaceful Sleep Environment
Your child’s sleep environment plays a significant part in promoting healthy sleep quality. Some kids may travel to the land of nod more easily with a cool, dark, and noise-free environment. Ensure that the bed and pillow are comfortable and supportive while wearing pajamas made of breathable fabrics, enabling a comfortable body temperature as your little one snoozes all night long.
Promote Regular Physical Activity
Exercise during the day can help burn off excess energy and improve kids’ sleep quality (3). Make sure to keep physical activity outdoors when possible, and avoid vigorous exercising close to bedtime.
For children with sensory processing issues, you might actually have success with more physical activity close to bedtime (4). It can be hard to get a child to sleep if they want more sensory input in their sleep routine, so the following may help:
- Use a weighted blanket: A weighted blanket provides a calming effect in order to sleep soundly.
- Provide ‘heavy work’ activities before bed: Jumping, pushing, or pulling activities before bedtime gives the body the sensory input it needs to meet the threshold before they go to sleep.
An occupational therapist or integrative team can help you figure out which kinds of heavy work activities may be right for your child.
Help your child thrive with an integrative approach—schedule an appointment online!
Manage Stress Levels
Children face a lot of stress in their daily lives these days, whether it’s from academic pressure or competing schedules with extra-curricular activities. This can mean trouble falling asleep for high-achieving or very busy students. Sleep disorders are common in children with anxiety, or who experience a lot of stress (5).
Help your child identify and cope with stressors in a healthy way to make sure they have a chance to get enough sleep. (Make sure to also check your own stress levels as the parent, too.)
Monitor Diet and Hydration
Avoid heavy meals and caffeine close to bedtime, as they can disrupt the body’s natural circadian rhythms. Instead, opt for light, balanced snacks and adequate hydration throughout the day.
Watch Out For Sleep Problems
Monitoring sleep patterns and being aware of changes in behavior or physical health will help you identify if your child is having difficulty sleeping. Warning signs might include loud and constant snoring, sleepwalking, frequent awakenings, difficulty breathing, bedwetting, or sleeping in unusual postures. The key is to provide reassurance and support when needed.
Signs your school-aged child, may need more sleep:
Difficulty Waking Up: If your child has a hard time waking up in the morning and seems unusually groggy or irritable, it could indicate insufficient sleep.
Frequent Mood Swings: Lack of sleep can contribute to mood swings, irritability, and difficulty managing emotions (6).
Poor Concentration and Academic Performance: Sleep is vital for cognitive function. If your child is struggling to concentrate or their academic performance is declining, sleep could be a contributing factor.
Increased Hyperactivity: Insufficient sleep can lead to hyperactivity and impulsivity, often misdiagnosed as attention-related issues.
Frequent Headaches or Stomach Aches: Sleep problems can manifest as physical complaints, including headaches and stomachaches, due to the body’s heightened stress response.
Behavioral Changes: Noticeable changes in behavior, such as increased aggression or withdrawal, may stem from disrupted sleep patterns.
Nightmares or Nighttime Awakenings: Frequent nightmares or waking up during the night can disrupt sleep quality and indicate underlying stress or anxiety.
Better Sleep for a Happy, Productive School Day
Prioritizing healthy sleep habits during the back-to-school transition is crucial for your child’s academic success, emotional well-being, and overall health. By establishing consistent routines and creating a comfortable sleep environment, you can set your child up for a successful school year
If you notice any of the signs mentioned above indicating sleep issues, it’s essential to address them promptly.
- Consult with our integrative pediatrician team at CentreSpringMD to identify and address any underlying sleep concerns—schedule online!
Remember, quality sleep is a cornerstone of your child’s growth and development, and with the right approach, you can ensure they embark on their educational journey well-rested and ready to thrive.