We all know the importance of sleeping well—it allows us to rest,
recharge, and feel our best—yet for many, it is not an easy thing to
achieve. Lots of children have sleep problems such as:
- Difficulty falling asleep
- Waking up frequently at night
- Having bad dreams or nightmares
- Talking or walking during sleep
- Waking up too early in the morning
- Feeling sleepy or irritable during the day
Because many different things can get in the way of having regular,
refreshing sleep, it is important to identify what is keeping your
child from sleeping well. Some issues are temporary, such as being up
late for a special occasion, doing an “all-nighter” for a project due
the next day, or coping with a stressful event. Once the stress passes,
the child is usually able to catch up on missed sleep. Other sleep
problems however may be more long-lasting. Many children do not have a
regular bedtime routine or sleeping schedule or have certain “sleep
habits” (such as using the television to fall asleep) that make it
difficult to fall asleep or to return to sleep if they wake up.
Parents can help their children develop good sleep habits or “sleep hygiene” by following some basic guidelines:
- Go to bed and wake up the same time every day (including weekends)
- Use the same routine each time (typically 30 minutes)
- Use a firm and consistent approach to stall tactics to help avoid reinforcing them
- Except for younger children who need naps, avoid naps during the day
- Create a relaxing routine such as a bath and reading a story
- Make after-dinner playtime relaxing. Too much activity can keep children awake
- Avoid emotional conversations, watching TV, or video games before bedtime
- Diet, Exercise, & Medication
- Avoid big meals close to bedtime.
- Avoid giving children caffeinated products less than six hours before bedtime.
- Exercise can promote good sleep, but not within three hours of bedtime.
- Be aware that some prescription and over-the-counter medications
may interfere with sleep (such as the decongestant
Finally, keep in mind that new or on-going sleep problems may be the result of psychiatric or medical illnesses such as:
- Set a comfortable bedroom temperature.
- Keep the bedroom dark. If necessary, use a small nightlight.
- Expose your child to natural sunlight soon after awakening in the morning.
- Keep the noise level low. A “white noise” or sound machine can be helpful.
- Keep the TV and video games out of your child’s bedroom.
- Depression / Bipolar disorder
- Anxiety / Trauma (PTSD)
- Substance use (caffeine, cigarettes, alcohol, other drugs)
- Breathing problems (apnea, asthma, allergies)
- Heartburn (acid reflux)
- A sleep diary (click here) can be helpful in keeping track of your child’s progress.
- More information on sleep and sleep problems can be found at: