Good sleep hygiene is critical to ensuring healthy sleep quality and preventing the onset of sleep disorders and other long-term health issues. Below are a few research-based tips for parents to help improve their child’s sleep and prevent bedtime resistance.
1. STICK TO A ROUTINE
Utilizing a regular bedtime routine with a predictable pattern of pre-sleep activities can help kids fall asleep faster and prevent bedtime resistance. School-aged children whose bedtime varied by an hour or more during the week displayed more behavioral problems than those whose bedtime was consistently the same through the week and weekend.
2. READ OR SING
language-based bedtime routines such as bedtime stories and lullabies have been linked to positive cognitive, behavioral, and health outcomes. In a longitudinal study, a positive association was found be between language-based bedtime routines that included reading a book or singing together and better verbal test scores, nighttime sleep duration, and overall general health (Hale et al., 2011).
3. GET ACTIVE
Keeping kids active during the day, well before bedtime, and regular exercise has been shown to improve sleep quality. For school-age children, sufficient sleep generally increased with the number of days per week that students were physically active for 60 minutes or more.
4. KEEP IT COOL
Children are more likely to get a quality night’s sleep in a room that is quiet, comfortable, and cool, between 65 and 70 degrees, according to the National Sleep Foundation. Skin blood flow, metabolism, and sleep-wake cycles are moderated by temperatures.
5. SHUN SCREENS
Avoid electronic devices, such as TVs, computers, and phones before bedtime. Sleep duration is affected by screen time and is associated with anxious behavior, difficulty falling asleep, and withdrawn depressed behaviors.
6. SAFETY FIRST
To reduce the risk of SIDS, infants should be placed on a firm sleep surface (e.g., a mattress in a safety-approved crib) covered by a fitted sheet with no other bedding or soft objects. These objects can potentially restrict breathing and or result in suffocation. Co-sleeping or bed-sharing can also pose a similar risk. More recommendations for safe sleep practices can be found on the National Institutes of Health’s Safe to Sleep Website.
Healthy sleep habits are crucial for a child’s long-term health, development, and well-being However, researchers estimate as many as 30-50% of US children suffer from insufficient sleep and have difficulty practicing good sleep hygiene. Pediatricians and family service providers can help educate parents on the importance of sleep. But even with adequate public awareness, not every family has the time, money, or privilege to prioritize good sleep hygiene. Policymakers can work to address these deficiencies and ensure all families have the resources necessary for healthy sleep practices.
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