Sometimes our sleeping habits happen within us. Some kids like to arise with the sun while others just want to dance in the moonlight. So how do you help your child who just can’t sleep at night and then is sleepy at school? Here are some tips to help your little night owl get the Zzzz he or she needs. One helpful tool can be melatonin supplements. Pediatricians advise to only use this supplement short-term. Use this as a re-setter to help a child get back on a sleep schedule after a stressful time, new school, family vacation etc.
Daily Parent’s Dear Addie Section had these other tips to offer
- Move the bedtime up by about 30 minutes so that the wind-down period starts earlier
- No sugar or caffeine within six hours of bedtime
- No screen-time (TV, electronics, etc.) for an hour before bedtime
- No sports/active play for an hour before bedtime
Change Bedtime- Creating an earlier bedtime by about thirty minutes can help a child relax their mind earlier so they will be more ready for bed when the clock hits the special hour. Also creating a quiet routine might be helpful. For example reading a fun book after homework is complete.
No Sugar or Caffeine- Within 6 hours of bedtime close the doors on candy or caffeine. These are stimulants and can cause minds to race. These treats or drinks full of sugar can sometimes turn a calm child into a hyper night owl that refuses to go to bed.
Create Quiet Time An hour before bedtime turn off all devices and spend an hour as a family. Read a book, listen to music, have a healthy bedtime snack etc. For bedtime snack ideas read our previous articles 5 Bedtime Snacks or 6 More Bedtime Snacks.
Create Relaxing Activities-To help night owls feel sleepy when the stars are shining. Avoid active play or sports an hour before bedtime. Switch with relaxing activities like talking about the day, coloring or reading together.
If these night owl tips do not help and your child is still restless it might be time to visit with his or her pediatrician.
With school just starting some families might still be struggling to get back into the school year bedtime routine. If you are a parent with a child who wants to stay up late and then struggles during the school day here are some tips that might help you get back to a schedule.
At least a week before school starts, get back to school-year bedtimes
- Many schools are already in session. Though this is a good idea for holiday breaks. Even though kids will want to stay up late during school holidays make sure they get the sleep they need and stick to a schedule so they will not be out of sync when school returns.
No electronics within an hour before bedtime
- Have a rule to turn off all devices one hour before bedtime. Do not stay up watching movies. Maybe choose to read a calming book or talk about each child’s favorite part of the day as part of a routine to wind down for the evening.
Have a predictable, consistent bedtime routine
- Humans are creatures of habit. If you create a consistent, enjoyable and calming routine, children’s minds will start to relax and produce melatonin (hormone that produces sleep) to prepare for bed. Routines can be simple and classic or special to your family. For example the hour before bedtime read a chapter from a book, then have kids take a bath, put on pajamas, brush teeth and then say goodnight. You can add anything you want to a bedtime routine to make it special and unique.
Darkness is key
- Creating a dark environment is important for melatonin creation. When there is light the brain believes it is day and sends signals to stay awake. Having a dark room to aid sleep might be hard for some children who are afraid of the dark. As many parents know having a simple dim night light can help calm these fears.
Limit caffeine (or sugar) in the evening hours
- Caffeine and sugar are natural stimulants and can cause a child’s mind to stay active when bedtime comes around. Dessert is fun but make sure to serve these yummy treats a few hours before bedtime and create a limit of one serving per child.
Calculate the best bedtime
- Research how many hours of sleep your child needs at their age. Look at when school starts and decide when children need to be awake in the morning to have enough time to get ready for school. Then use these figures to decide the best bedtime for your children.
Get the temperature right
- The best temperature for a good night sleep is between 68 and 70 degrees. Use a fan or AC to keep children’s bedrooms at a comfortable sleeping temperature.
Get a white-noise machine
- A consistent white-noise machine , that is not too loud, can help mask outside noises that might wake up a child.
Keep an eye on wake-up times
- Make rules about getting out of bed. Sometimes children wake up too early and have not received enough rest. Help children understand when to go to bed and when to wake up by adding a large digital clock to their bedroom.
Involve kids in the process of creating a bedtime routine
- Kids are more willing to agree to rules when they help create them. Add unique bedtime activities that match your child’s hobbies and personality. For example quiet color time, brush teeth to music, bedtime yoga, glass of milk or water etc. There are hundreds of ideas for creating fun bedtime routines found on Pinterest. You can click this link to get ideas Pinterest Bedtime Ideas
Hopefully these tips help make bedtime run more smoothly. If your child continues to have trouble sleeping, speak with a pediatrician to see if melatonin supplements can help your child fall asleep more peacefully.