Sleep is an essential part of our day and helps to ensure we are healthy and ready to engage in what life has to offer. Going to sleep and getting enough sleep are important skills for children to learn. Optimal sleep helps to ensure that children are able to play and ready to participate in daily activities at school or at home, and it promotes growth and development. Parents often struggle with bedtime routines and making sure children go to bed at a reasonable time. A bedtime routine can help both parents and children make the daily activity of going to sleep a pleasant experience.
Sleep is one of the many daily activities that occupational therapy practitioners help to promote. The following tips are from pediatric occupational therapy practitioners who have experience with educating parents on promoting healthy daily routines, including bedtime.
1. Establish a specific bedtime and a bedtime routine
Select a bedtime that you feel is appropriate for your child based on his or her age and schedule, and be consistent, even on weekends and during vacations. If you have multiple children, you may want to identify different bedtimes to ensure you can help each one. Establish a predictable, regular sequence of events to prepare for sleep and relaxation. Begin this bedtime routine about a half hour before.
2. Help your child relax to get ready for sleep
Avoid exercise or TV immediately before bedtime because these can make children more alert. As part of the bedtime routine, have your child pick up and put away toys. Reducing clutter can help the child focus on bedtime. Turn off the TV and play soothing music during the bedtime routine, to help your child calm down and signal that bedtime is arriving.
3. Help your child feel comfortable for bedtime
If your child expresses fear of the dark, make checking the closet or under the bed part of the bedtime routine. A nightlight can also help reduce this fear. Dim the lights while getting ready for bed to help the child prepare for the dark and to reinforce that nighttime is for sleeping. Make sure the room and their bedtime clothes are comfortable.
4. Ensure that your child is safe while sleeping alone
For young children, help prevent sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) by not putting items like blankets or stuffed animals in the crib. If a child makes nighttime trips to the bathroom, place night lights in the bedroom and bathroom. Make sure there are no cords dangling from the blinds or other items that could be a choking hazard.
5. Help your child become more independent in sleep
Beginning about 2 months of age, place a child in bed prior to being asleep so he or she can learn to fall asleep independently. White noise can provide comfort and help to drown out other noises. Sound machines, fans or even an aquarium can be used for white noise.
Make sure that your child is not drinking soft drinks with caffeine during the day. Older children should go to bed at the established time even if they don’t feel tired, so they don’t fall asleep in another room. Encourage them to read in bed to relax.
Need More Information?
At Pediatric Therapies we can evaluate your child for any issues underlying his or her ability to go to sleep and stay asleep, then create an intervention plan to address them. For example, an evaluation could reveal that the child is particularly sensitive to noise, textures, or odors, making it very difficult to relax enough for routine sleep. Our therapists can work with your entire family to help create an individualized strategy based on your child’s particular situation and needs.