Getting those ZZZ's
Sleep is so important for growing brains but how do you get those night owls down?
Sometimes getting children to sleep feels like a battle. They don’t want to put down their toys or electronics, they may be up constantly for water or the bathroom, or begging to spend the night with you instead. Sleep problems can make the evenings challenging and the next morning even worse!
Here are some ideas to help your kids get a good’s night rest, so you can too!
1) Create a bedtime routine
A consistent bedtime is a great start but routines can go even further than that! Consider habits or rituals that you can build into your child’s day that help them to relax and wind down for the night. For example, after dinner your family can spend time talking to each other before your child bathes and gets ready for bed. Or you can add some quiet reading or play time to your child’s day before they go to sleep. Routines can be challenging to implement but repeated behaviors allow a child’s brain to learn when it is time to start getting ready for bed, helping them to be sleepier sooner.
2) Put the electronics away (a long before bedtime)
Electronics are everywhere in our world, so it can be difficult to avoid them. However, they really disrupt our sleep cycles and make sleeping deeply much more challenging. The blue lights in most of our screens confuse the part of our brain that prepares our bodies to sleep, causing it to “wake up” our bodies instead. For this reason, anyone struggling with sleep should avoid using any screens (particularly those with blue lights) for at least two hours before bed. Parents of children can substitute their child’s iPad time with playing quietly together, reading, or working on a craft. Older teens who may use technology more often, should prioritize homework that requires a computer for earlier in the afternoon or agree with their parents on a time to turn the phone off for the night.
3) Put Aromatherapy to work
Lavender has been shown to significantly improve the quality of sleep and reduce feelings of anxiety. Incorporating lavender-scented products into your child’s sleep routine can help them to feel more relaxed, fall asleep faster, and sleep more deeply. There are many ways to incorporate lavender scents—including lavender body lotions, pillow sprays, diffuser oils, or body wash. Enjoy trying out these scents with your kid! They often make caregivers feel much better too!
4) Beds are Only for Sleeping
Do you wonder about what NOT do for a good night’s sleep? If your child is struggling to sleep-- think about how much time they spend in their bedroom and bed when they are not trying to sleep. The brain learns patterns very well and if your child is spending lots of time in their room during the day, their brain is learning that their room is a place to be high-energy. Instead, move your child out to a communal space or outside for these play activities and reserve the bedroom for only calm, relaxing activities such as journaling, meditation, or reading. If your child is really struggling to sleep, the only time they should be in their bedroom is when they are going to sleep.
5) End the Night with Connection
Finally, end the night on a good note. Bedtime is not the time to remind your child that you are upset with them or that they misbehaved during the day. No matter what happened during the day, try to end the night in connection with your child. You can do this by spending time talking to your child about the good parts of their day, meditating or praying together, or giving them a back rub while they fall asleep. If your child is having frequent nightmares, helping them to go to bed feeling relaxed and safe may help to minimize these dreams.
Bad sleep can have a massive impact on a person’s mood, functioning, and ability to learn. If your child isn’t sleeping well, try these suggestions to help them sleep better and ultimately, feel better. If you and your child need help getting to them to sleep, please contact your pediatrician or reach out to Oasis Springs Children's Counseling Center for further help!