Snoozing Tips for Your Child

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When I was little, my dad nicknamed me “The Popper” because I was constantly popping out of bed at night after my parents had read me a story, tucked me in, and turned out the lights. I remember standing at the top of the stairs calling out to my parents to read me another story or asking to come downstairs to watch TV with them because I just didn’t feel “tired” at bedtime. Some of this may have been some inherent mischievousness in me, but most likely, I had difficulty falling asleep at night. In this RN Remedies article, I hope to provide some tips to help kids sleep for those of you who have your own little Poppers at home.

Kids may have difficulty sleeping for many different reasons.

Some kids have difficulty falling asleep and others have a hard time staying asleep. Reasons for sleeping difficulties include:

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  • Stress
  • Physical discomfort (such as a congestion, itching, coughing)
  • Drinking caffeine
  • Medications (steroids, ADHD medication, anticonvulsants)
  • Legitimate sleep disorders
  • Disruptions in the normal routine
  • Sleeping too much during the day
  • Uncomfortable sleeping environment (too hot or too cold, itchy pajamas)
  • Too much exposure to stimuli before bed (think iPad in bed, TV, or video games)

We know that sleep is very important for the body. Kids need sleep to help them grow, heal or ward off illness, concentrate in school, and behave better. We also know that kids who get enough sleep have lower rates of obesity. It’s normal for kids to have difficulty sleeping every now and then, but if the issue becomes chronic it’s important to talk to your child’s pediatrician.

How much sleep should your child get each night?

It depends on the age. Here is a good general rule of thumb from the CDC:

  • Infants: 16-18 hours per day
  • Preschoolers: 11-12 hours per day (plus 1 to 2 short naps)
  • School-age: At least 10 hours per day
  • Teenagers: 9-10 hours per day

Everyone is different, and some children require more or less sleep than what is listed here. You can get a good idea of whether or not your children are getting a sufficient amount of sleep if they are able to wake up promptly in the morning or wake up early on their own, don’t have difficulty falling asleep at night, start to feel tired around the time of their normal bedtime, and remain alert and engaged in school during the day.

How to help kids sleep

Here are some of the best tips that I have come across:

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  • Allow your children sufficient time to wind down in the evening. Give them warnings at about 30 minutes and 10 minutes before bed so that they can finish what they are doing and mentally prepare that it’s time for bed.
  • Establish a calm, consistent bedtime routine. Start your child’s bedtime routine around the same time each night. Give yourself enough time to get through the entire routine before your child’s scheduled “lights out.” For some kids, this routine includes taking a warm bath or shower, brushing teeth, singing lullabies, reading a book and getting tucked in.
  • Talk to your children about stressors. Sometimes a lack of sleep can be caused by issues going on at home (divorce, new baby, moving) or at school (test anxiety, issues with teachers, bullies).
  • If your children have nightmares, it’s important to reassure them and make them feel safe. Kids who have nightmares sometimes are either afraid to go to sleep, have difficulty falling back asleep after a nightmare, don’t like being alone in their room, or avoid the darkness. Listen to them and encourage them to talk about the dream and provide reassurance. Sometimes it’s helpful to talk to children about “being brave,” read a book about kids combating scary dreams, practice playing together in the dark with a flashlight before bedtime, or provide them with a security blanket or stuffed animal to keep with them in bed. If the nightmares are happening often, discuss this with your child’s pediatrician.
  • Avoid watching scary movies or TV shows or reading scary books, particularly right before bed.
  • Make sure that your child is in comfy pajamas without scratchy tags and that the room temperature isn’t too hot or too cold.
  • Avoid food or drink before bedtime.
  • Avoid keeping lots of toys in your child’s bed. Too many things can cause kids to get distracted by wanting to play at bedtime.
  • Keep the lights dim when preparing your kids for bed.
  • Don’t allow TV, iPad, video games or computer time when children are in bed. Research shows that these things cause poor sleep and overstimulation before bed.
  • Help children relax and wind down by teaching them to visualize a relaxing scene (like laying on a beach for instance) in their mind with their eyes closed. Ask them to take slow, deep breaths in and out.

Sweet Dreams! What are some of your strategies to help your child sleep?