Good sleep is incredibly important for good mental and physical health at all ages. It helps you restore energy, rebuild your body, improve your mood, and even fight off anxiety and depression.
Here are eight great ways to form healthy sleep habits…
Follow a Sleep Schedule
Consistency is the name of the game here.
Bedtime and wake time should be about the same time every day. There should ideally be no more than a 1-hour difference in bedtime and wake time between weekdays and the weekend. Maintaining this schedule can be key to having consistent and restful sleep.
Though it’s tempting, “sleeping in” for several hours to “catch up” sleep on the weekends often leads to difficulty falling asleep and creating a consistent sleep cycle for your body.
Establish a Bedtime Routine
This should be habitual.
Make the 30-60 minutes before bedtime a quiet or wind-down time. Relaxing, calm, enjoyable activities such as reading a book or listening to soothing music can help the body slow down and relax to prepare for sleep. We recommend avoiding television, exercise, or stressful work/studying during this time.
It’s also really helpful to have a 20-30 minute bedtime routine, used every night of the week. Routines often include: bath/ shower/washing face, brushing teeth, using the bathroom, and changing into pajamas, followed by calm activities such as reading a book, listening to calm music, talking about the day, etc.
Create a Comfortable Bedroom Environment
A bedroom should be comfortable, quiet, and dark. A night light is ok to use, but too many lights can be disruptive.
The bedroom should be recognized as a safe, secure space. In addition to sleep, bedrooms can be used for regrouping, calming, and settling. We do not, however, recommend doing homework or stressful activities in the bedroom if possible. The bedroom should be a relaxing space, so having physical, spatial separation of work and sleep is an important aspect of sleep hygiene.
Have a Light, Healthy Snack
Children shouldn’t go to bed hungry.
A light, healthy snack before bedtime, possibly as part of the bedtime routine, with teeth brushing occurring afterwards, can be very helpful. We do not, however, suggest eating a heavy meal within an hour or two of bedtime, as this may interfere with sleep.
Children should avoid caffeine completely. But if a child does drink a caffeinated beverage, it shouldn’t be within 4 hours of bedtime.
Engage in Physical Activity
Moving during the day helps us sleep at night.
As part of a healthy lifestyle and routine, we suggest aiming for at least 1 hour of activity a day. Physical activity comes in all forms, such as walking, dancing, jumping, playing, and can be done in small bursts throughout the days — 10 minutes several times a day adds up!
If weather permits, exposure to sunlight in the morning and during the day helps keep our body’s internal clock on track, so if it’s possible to get outside, do it! Avoid intense physical activity/exercise within an hour of bedtime, as this is stimulating and may interfere with falling asleep.
The low-light level of an electronic screen in the bedroom, or at bed time, can shift one’s internal clock and negatively impact sleep. These devices can also be addicting and stimulating and can lead to difficulty falling asleep and staying asleep.
We recommend establishing a rule that mobile phones/e-devices are not kept in the bedroom overnight. They can be charged overnight outside the bedroom. If the devices are already in the bedroom overnight, we suggest getting them out of the room.
Keep Naps Consistent (Typically for Kids 2-5 Years)
Napping should ideally occur in the same bedroom as overnight sleep.
Since daylight can be disruptive to nap-time sleep, room-darkening shades can be an excellent addition to consider.
Typically, school-age children do not want or require a nap. If regular napping occurs after the age 5, it can be a sign of insufficient overnight sleep — at least until we get to adulthood, when naps become a precious, yet rare, treat : )
As always, if you have any questions, just give us a call in the office. We’re always happy to help!
Dr. Kate Belser has been a Kids Plus Provider since 2019.