Children’s Sleep: How to get your child’s sleep pattern right

children's sleep patterns

Children’s Sleep: How to get your child’s sleep pattern right

Why is Children’s Sleep Routine so important?

Parents know all too well, children’s sleep sets the standard for the rest of their day. Getting good quality sleep is key for your child’s growth and development. A healthy sleep routine helps take the stress out of bedtime and improves your child’s performance at school. Reaction times improve, and the immune system strengthens against coughs & colds.

On the flip side, bad sleep routines and poor quality sleep can lead to irritability, problems with mental and physical development and can create long-term sleep problems that continue into adulthood.

The Build-up to Bedtime

An important feature of a good sleep routine is to establish a regular bedtime and to try and stick to this wherever possible. Children thrive from routine and getting into the habit of preparing for sleep at a regular time can reduce the stress of bedtime.  The hour or so before your scheduled bedtime should be used to help wind down your child.

Avoid highly stimulating play and screen time and use this time instead for quiet play, a warm bath or shower, and then a story or chat before bed. Lowering the lighting and keeping the temperature cool (16-20 Celsius) in the lead-up to bedtime can help to create a sleep-promoting environment and help your child relax before bed.

Your child’s bedroom can be a source of distraction in the build-up to sleep. Is it too warm? Are there a lot of toys visible? Is there light coming through from outside? Is their mattress comfortable with no damaged springs? All these things can cause stimulation and disrupt the natural sleep cycle.

 

children's toys on the bedroom floor

Try to avoid toys being left around on the bedroom floor at bedtime to promote better children’s sleep

 

Napping is another disruption to nighttime sleeping. Napping is a natural part of your child’s development. But by age 3-4, most children should be able to function without napping during the day.

Do’s

  • Encourage quiet play in the run-up to bedtime
  • Dim lighting and cool bedroom temperature where possible
  • A warm bath or shower can help to promote sleepiness
  • Keep a regular bedtime
  • Snacks such as cereal and milk or toast with peanut butter contain sleep-promoting nutrients and can be incorporated into your bedtime routine
  • Be patient, it may take time for your child to adjust to the new routine but remaining calm and positively reinforcing this change will help your children’s sleep pattern in the long term.

Don’t’s

  • Encourage boisterous play or use of screens in the hour before bedtime
  • Give children caffeinated/sugary foods in the build-up to bedtime
  • Leave toys around the room when your child is going to bed. A tidy room free from stimulating distractions will help to support your routine.

References

The Sleep Council

NHS Healthy Sleep tips for Children

Child Mind Institute – Encouraging good sleep habits