Help Your Child Sleep Better
As we head back into a school year, sleep starts to get more attention. Gone are the lazy mornings where sleep schedule is less relevant and back is the intense race to have everyone ready. Here are some simple ways to help sleep go well this year:
1. Get Them in the Dark
We need to be in a period of darkness to allow for melatonin production, and the darkness needs to be sustained throughout the sleep period. This is true across the lifespan, and even simple devices like night lights or lights left on in the hallway can suppress overall drive for sleep. Encourage your child to have some strategies for feeling safe at night that doesn’t involve light, such as a favorite stuffed animal or reassuring scent.
2. Avoid Devices in the Bedtime Routine
An American Academy of Pediatrics study demonstrated significant sleep issues in adolescents when they were exposed to devices near bedtime. A good rule for school-age children is not to watch TV or be on devices after dinner, whereas tweens and adolescents need to put away their devices at least an hour before bed. In some households, it can make sense to have a Wi-Fi curfew to aid in this process- there is less of a fight when the shutdown happens automatically.
3. Have a Consistent Bedtime Routine
A bedtime routine prepares our brain for its next important task: sleep! Across the lifespan, we see increases consistency in sleep and decreased time to fall asleep when there is a very consistent bedtime routine. This is a good opportunity to spend a few minutes debriefing about the day, and working through any worries or stressors that your child may have. For adolescents, this can be an independent process, but it can be good to make it a stable time to connect, even for just a hug.
4. Keep the Same Schedule 7 Days per Week
I know that this seems like a crazy proposition with adolescents in particular, but sleeping well is related to consistency with your brain’s clock system (circadian rhythm). If they stay up later on the weekend, you can let them compensate by napping rather than having them sleep in. This will reinforce their normal wake time so that they can focus on Monday mornings.
5. Avoid Caffeine
It can take up to 12 hours for caffeine to metabolize, so an afternoon pick-me-up can end up wrecking sleep. A study by the National Sleep Foundation demonstrated that caffeine consumption in children reduced sleep by 15 minutes, along with the 45 minutes that were suppressed with exposure to devices. Yes, the impact seems minor, but studies consistently demonstrate an inverse relationship between caffeine consumption and hours slept.
If sleep is a bigger issue, feel free to see a more in depth look at these articles: