As a parent, you may always concern about the child’s health. And in recent years, sleep health is becoming a common and high-frequency topic in the parents’ group.
Losing sleep over your child sleep? you are not alone. The reality is that sleep problems in children are common, and even more common in kids with autism, developmental disabilities and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, which is also known as ADHD. As a parent you know that sleep problems can negatively affect the whole family, creating stress and lost sleep for parents too.
What are common sleep complaints in children?
Crying at bedtime or refusing to go to bed unless a parent stays with them, moving to their parents’ bed during the night, sleeping in car seats, strollers, and basically anywhere, but their own bed. Those are typical actions of children complaints. Maybe you also did so in childhood. Those complaints can really make parents mad and tired.
Fortunately, here is the good news. Many sleep problems can be improved if not completely resolved, with simple changes to the bedtime routine and environment. There is a term for bedtime rituals and nightly habits, all those behaviors are known as sleep hygiene. You can practice good sleep hygiene to get a better night’s sleep. So good sleep hygiene means good habits that promote sleep. Here are some top tips for good sleep hygiene. And most of us can benefit from improving at least one aspect of sleep hygiene.
8 Top tips for good sleep hygiene
- Make sure bedtime and morning wake up is around the same time each day, including weekends. Many of us like lie in during weekends and holidays, to make up sleep. But it is not a good habit. You shall get up as normal time.
- Keep bedrooms cool, comfortable and dark. Here’s a tip. If you can read a book, the room is too bright. Beds are for sleeping, not playing or watching TV or playing on tablets or devices.
- No drinks or food with caffeine in the late afternoon or evening. Caffeine is a stimulant and can block the sleep process. Many of our drink and food contain caffeine, such as coffee, cocoa, tea, chocolate, some soft drink and some drugs. During the daytime you may consume caffeine to remain alert. But If you want to have a smooth sleep at night, please decrease or avoid it before bedtime.
- -No big meals right before bed. Some of us like having a big meal in the evening together with friends. This is not good for your body. At night, your blood circulation system slows down and your body is ready to have a rest. But a big meal would make your stomach full of food and stimulate your body to keep active to digest them. So the body generates more energy and you become excited. Then you have no sign of drowsiness at all.
- Try relaxing activities in the evening to wind down, a warm bath or reading is a good choice.
- Keep the bedtime routine activities in the same order every night. So it is predictable. Make sure it is enjoyable and short.
- Here is the big one. Keep screens out of the bedroom. There is research saying that devices in the evening make it harder to fall asleep and stay asleep. So please end all screen time at least one hour before bedtime. We will explain detail for this point in the next section.
- The last one, please remember to talk to your child’s family doctor, if you have any concerns about your child’s sleep. Some medical conditions cause sleep disturbances and medications can interfere with sleep too. So it’s very important to speak with your child’s doctor about these concerns. If sleep hygiene changes aren’t improving their sleep, ask about having a sleep behavior assessment.
Avoid electronic devices before bedtime
Most of childhood insomnia is due to inadequate sleep hygiene. You know children have computers, TVs, phones in their bedroom, and all those devices do delay their sleep onset and hamper their sleep process.
First, if you are using the computer or you are watching TV, you become engaged in what you are doing, and that will cause you to become stimulated which makes it harder to fall asleep and stay asleep.
Second, light from TVs and computers can also hamper your melatonin secretion. Melatonin is a kind of hormone that is secreted by your pineal gland and helps you with sleep onset. Now, light is the most activating factor for us. We have receptors that are located in our retina. And those receptors will take that light and send that signal to our brain, then our brain interprets the signal and tells the body to stay awake. So increasing light exposure hours in the evening will suppress our melatonin secretion. So it would be best to avoid electronics at least an hour before your bedtime and stay in dim light to help with the sleep onset process.
Whether you practice good or bad sleep hygiene is up to you. But if you want to get a better night’s sleep, the answer often begins with improving your sleep hygiene. So helping your child building up good sleep hygiene is really a big matter, and it will benefit him/her in whole life. When you practice above tips, you can also talk details to your health doctor for more professional test and advice. Hope you and your child can have good hygiene as soon as possible.