All children will suffer from bouts of insomnia at one time or another. Parents may also struggle with the task of getting kids down for bed, whether it be at naptime or for evening sleep. The following tips and techniques will help your children get to sleep faster and stay asleep once down.
- Utilize white noise
Obtain a CD that you can use as background noise for your child’s naps and bedtimes. Nature soundtracks, ocean sounds, or slow classical music work well. Any type of meditation or yoga soundtrack CD is likely to do the trick. Here are some suggestions and guidelines on how to use it:
- Get a CD player for your child’s room that you can put on repeat, so that it plays throughout the night, which will help keep your child from being woken up in the middle of the night. It will also help them fall right back alseep if they do stir.
- As tempting as it might be to select several CDs for variety, it’s best to use one and stick with it. Not only do you want it to be boring (and the more familiar something is, the more boring it becomes), but you want your kids to associate these sounds with sleep.
- Play the music about a half-an-hour before bedtime to get your kids to settle down. It will set the stage for bedtime and help them get sleepy. You can also add white noise by bringing a fan into your child’s bedroom. Try different techniques to see what background noises work best for your child.
- Have them count the stars – literally
The age-old advice is to count sheep, but children may struggle with mental representations like this. A better technique might be to cover your child’s bedroom ceiling with glow in the dark stars. When it’s time for him to go to sleep, just tell him to count the stars. He’ll be asleep in no time at all.
- Active days = A better night’s sleep
If your child is struggling to get to sleep, take a look at her activity during the day. A New Zealand study found that sedentary children took up to 42 minutes to doze off, while those kids who were more active throughout the day were asleep in just thirteen. So consider ways to work in more physical activity throughout the day.
- Cut back on medications
Medications such as those prescribed for ADHD may disrupt a teen’s sleep. If the effects of the morning pill wear off by dinnertime and he can’t concentrate, talk to your doctor about a smaller, late afternoon dose that will keep his concentration but won’t interfere with sleep. NSAIDs such as Tylenol or ibuprofen can also interfere with melatonin production, so avoid using these late in the evening.
Additional tips for helping children fall asleep
- Fill the period before bedtime with mundane activities. Kids need to be relaxed, perhaps even bored, in order for them to fall asleep.
- Try reading your child a picture book that is a little too young for them, or one they know by heart. The familiarity or ease of the story creates a type of soothing boredom that can calm the mind and help them fall asleep.
- Have them count backwards from ten (or 20) over and over again. This mundane task can help her zone out, and works better than counting forwards, since it’s less mental strain and primes a child to drift out of consciousness. Call them “dream countdowns.”
- If your child routinely fusses about not being sleepy before bed, try reversing the table on her and tell her that she can stay awake if she wants to, but has to stay in bed. Kids feel empowered by this choice and imagine themselves in charge, but will usually get so bored they’ll quickly zonk out anyway.
- If a child struggles to get to sleep the night before, avoid the tendency to let them sleep in or take longer naps the next day. Doing so could throw off their circadium rhythm further, leading to problems getting to sleep the next night as well, which soon turns into a pattern of insomnia. Try to keep to your regular schedule as much as possible. If they’re tired the next day, it’s ok to let them start bedtime a little sooner, but otherwise keep to the same schedule.