Establishing Healthy Sleep Habits for Children: Expert Advice

The kids wish they could play a little bit more before bedtime or stay up watching TV for another 30 minutes. Play is an important part of childhood, and limited screen time isn’t necessarily bad. But when these sorts of behaviors interrupt bedtime, they can negatively affect children’s sleep routines, which comes with unfortunate side effects—including difficulty learning throughout the school day.

The good news is that there are several simple things you can do to help your child establish healthy sleep habits that promote their physical and mental well-being. This post looks at a few key things you can do to help your child get great, restorative rest.

How Many Hours of Sleep Does Your Child Need?

First things first: It’s important to understand how much sleep your child needs. This differs depending on the age and the individual, but here are some reasonable, science-based guidelines to follow:

  • Infants usually require 12 to 16 hours of sleep (including naps)
  • Toddlers should be getting 11 to 14 hours of sleep (including naps)
  • Preschoolers need a good 10 to 13 hours of sleep (including naps)
  • Grade schoolers (ages 6 to 12) should have between 9 and 12 hours of sleep
  • Teens require 8 to 10 hours of sleep


Put Away Screens Before Bed

We all know that TV can disrupt our sleep if we watch shows right before getting into bed. And lying in bed scrolling on a phone or tablet can keep us up way too late. This is because screens expose our brains to blue light, which makes us think it’s daytime!

Help your kid out by establishing family rules about screen time. A good guideline is to turn off electronics at least one hour before bed. Don’t put a TV in your young child’s room, as they’ll be tempted to use it too frequently, and make sure older kids follow your curfew with their phones and computers.

Create a Sleep-Friendly Bedroom Environment

Busy, cluttered environments also keep our minds running. Get kids into the habit of picking up clothes and toys as they prepare for bed. This will help them avoid feeling overwhelmed when they lie down at night.

You can take it a step further by adding a calming ambiance to their bedroom. Consider introducing a salt lamp, lavender diffuser, or soft nightlight into their room. You can also provide them with a very soft blanket and some stuffed animals for extra coziness.

Don’t Let Kids Go to Bed Hungry (or Too Full)

Being too hungry or too full can also make sound sleep more difficult. If a kid must eat before bedtime, offer a light snack or a bit of cereal. Big meals shouldn’t be eaten within an hour of sleeping.

Be aware that kids sometimes use stalling tactics to put off going to bed. A common method is expressing hunger in order to stay up a few more minutes before hitting the hay. One easy way to deal with this is to ask them if they’re hungry before they begin their bedtime routine.

Encouraging Good Sleep

By establishing simple rules, you can encourage your kid to develop healthy sleep habits that follow them into adulthood. If you’re interested in more advice for improving your child’s sleep and bedtime routine, contact us today to book a consultation with one of our board-certified pediatricians in Littleton.