Like all healthy habits, learning proper sleep hygiene should start at a young age and continue for life. In honor of May being designated National Sleep Better Month, here are a few tips to ensure that you and your family all get a better night’s sleep.
- Sleep schedule. Sleep schedules including bedtime and wake-up times should be consistent. There should not be more than an hour’s difference in bedtime and wake-up times between week nights and weekend nights. Also make sure that children are getting at least the full eight hours of rest they need.
- Bedtime routine. After brushing teeth and getting into pajamas, children should have a 20 to 30 minute bedtime routine that is the same every night. The routine should include calm activities, such as reading a book or talking about the day. This helps to prepare the body for rest.
- Bedroom. Bedrooms should be comfortable, quiet, dark and cool (less than 75°F). For kids, a nightlight is fine, as a completely dark room can be scary for some children. Parents: Avoid using your child’s bedroom for time out or other punishment. You want your child to think of the bedroom as a good place, not a bad one.
- Snack. A light snack before bed is a good idea for kids, as it can be hard to have a restful sleep with a grumbling tummy. Heavy meals within an hour or two of bedtime, however, may interfere with sleep.
- Caffeine. Avoid caffeine in any form – such as soda, coffee, iced tea and chocolate – for at least three to four hours before bedtime.
- Evening activities. The hour before bed should be a quiet time for everyone, especially kids. Children should not get involved in high-energy activities, such as rough play or playing outside, or stimulating activities, such as computer and video games. Encourage reading if the children are old enough.
- Television. Keep the television set out of your bedroom since it’s easy to develop the bad habit of “needing” the television to fall asleep. This is even more important for children because it is also much more difficult to control your child’s television viewing if it is in the bedroom.
- Naps. Very long naps or too many naps should be avoided, as too much daytime sleep can result in sleeping less and a lesser quality of sleep at night. Regular naps for children should be geared to your child’s age and developmental needs, but direct them to earlier in the day or early afternoon so they’re not too close to bedtime.
- Exercise. Your family should spend time outside every day and get daily exercise. Walking is a great family activity, and sunshine and fresh outdoor air can help regulate sleep. Just remember to exercise earlier in the day or afternoon and not right before bedtime.
By following these tips, both children and adults can experience a more restful, fulfilling sleep. If you or your children are still struggling, though, it may be time to talk with a physician. Mount Nittany Physician Group Pediatrics offers locations in both Bellefonte and Boalsburg. With more than 100 providers, 20 specialties and 15 locations, Mount Nittany Physician Group specializes in providing personalized care for every stage of life. Learn more today at mountnittany.org/physician-group.