If your child is having difficulty falling or staying asleep, know that it's common. Many kids, at some point in their younger lives, will struggle with insomnia. Research shows as many as one out of five children will experience insomnia, and according to American Family Physician, around half will have some type of sleep problem.
Look to Natural Ways of Lulling Kids to Sleep
Here are 12 natural ways you can help your little ones sleep better, particularly during the school year when they need sleep the most.
- Reduce Screen Time for More "Green Time"
Being outdoors can help improve your child's sleep in several ways. First, the sun's natural light helps regulate your body's internal "sleep clock". This will keep your little one more alert in the daytime, and more tired at night. Also, the outdoors has a calming effect, helping children to release tension from scary or stressful events
- Turn the TV Off a Couple Hours Before Bedtime
Studies show the light from a phone, TV, or computer can interfere with melatonin production. Melatonin is a natural hormone your body produces, and is an essential part of sleep-wake cycles. When your levels of melatonin are at their highest, you're typically sleepy, and ready for bed.
Watching television or engaging in other screen time before bed can interfere with this enough to keep your kids up for an extra two hours. Ensure their bedroom is a screen-free zone at nighttime, or at least ensure their screens are totally dark from bedtime on. You may want to just leave the phone out of their bedroom until morning.
- Create a Routine
Kids who follow a regular bedtime routine fall asleep faster, wake up less frequently during the night, and sleep an extra hour on average, according to a study published in the Archives of Disease in Childhood.
- Create a Sleep Environment
While its okay to give your child a stuffed animal to help them sleep better, having too many toys can make it more difficult. Also, room-darkening shades, soft sheets, and a relatively quiet environment can help them differentiate between daytime and nighttime, making it simpler for them to fall asleep.
- Have Them Sleep on an Organic Natural Mattress
Natural organic latex mattresses are made from natural ingredients. They're usually free of VOCs and chemicals. Most are eco-INSTITUT Certified and Greenguard Gold Certified, meaning they're guaranteed to be safe for your children. Organic natural mattresses are non-toxic and eco-friendly with no offgassing, and are a great "next step" for your child after they graduate from a toddler bed.
Plus, they're often the perfect bed for temperature regulation, and for children suffering from allergies. They provide firm support for their little bones, but are very comfortable to help them relax and get a restful sleep.
- Make Bedtime Special
When little ones feel loved, they usually relax better. Set up a predictable, special bedtime routine that includes things like story time, cuddling with your little one, or simply talking with them about their day to help them drift off to sleep more peacefully.
- Have Them Exercise
Have your child engage in physical activity in the morning and during the daytime with exercises such as:
- Riding a bike
- Jump roping
Physical activities can help their little bodies transition between sleep phases, and spend more time in deep sleep.
- Give Them a Bath Before Bed
A warm bath can help your child fall asleep. It's important the water is warm, not hot. Everyone's body has natural temperature rhythms. A drop in body temperature signals the body it's "sleepy time." This happens naturally, and triggers an increase in melatonin. Giving your child a warm bath a couple hours before sleep will artificially raise their body temperature. When they get out of the tub, their body temperature will drop, and signal their brain it's time for sleep.
- Offer Them a High Protein Snack
Ideally, you'd offer the protein snack around an hour or two before bed to allow for digestion. However, some kids will say they're hungry again if they don't have a snack right before bed.
- Eliminate Sugar Before Bed
Consuming too much sugar can be problematic right before bedtime. Sugar causes a blood sugar spike, and then afterward a crash which leads to trouble falling or staying asleep.
- Keep Caffeine Away
Children can have sleep troubles if before bed they drink beverages like:
- Energy drinks
- Coffee beverages
You probably shouldn't give kids caffeine at all, but sometimes it can't be avoided. Also, having too many liquids before bedtime can cause them to wake up at night, needing to use the bathroom or wet the bed. You'll also want to keep them away from chocolate right before bed, since it, too, contains caffeine.
- Check for Sleep Disorders
If your little one continues having problems falling or staying asleep despite your best efforts, they could be struggling with a sleep disorder, such as sleep apnea or night terrors. Talk with their doctor if you're concerned.
All parents, at one point or another, have had their children struggle with sleep difficulties. These natural ways of helping kids sleep better at night target the cause of their sleeping problems, and support them in obtaining enough good quality sleep each night. But, if the tips aren't working for your child, and they're still not getting enough sleep, it may be time to talk with their pediatrician.