By Liz McGehee
Even children suffer from insomnia every once in a while. The world often seems like a big, scary place to someone so small. Stress at home, lack of adequate exercise or mental stimulation during the day and fear of the dark are common underlying causes of insomnia. You may remember experiencing some of these things as a child as well. Draw on your personal experience to get the bottom of sleeplessness, and follow these tips to help them get to bed:
- Get a routine and stick to it.
Dinner, bedtime and wake up need to be consistent. An established routine makes it easier to fall asleep.
- Turn off the devices.
Countless studies have established that blue light devices, such as tablets, stimulate the brain and make it hard to fall asleep. If there’s a TV in the room, you can bet they will have trouble falling asleep. Establish a consistent time to turn off all household technology, including the TV. Take them to the library and let them pick out a few books to read before bed.
- Don’t send them to bed until they’re tired.
This one is tricky. Sleep scientists say that you shouldn’t go to your bed until you are ready to sleep. However, we all know kids sometimes need to go to a quiet room to unwind. But waiting until their good and tired is still a habit worth instilling at a young age.
- Make sure they’re comfortable.
Sleep studies suggest that keeping the bedroom between 60 and 67 degrees Fahrenheit aids sleep. You also want to make sure their clothes are loose, they have water nearby and have used the bathroom recently. If they’re afraid of the dark, give them a flashlight, nightlight or a dim lamp. If they fear something else, get creative.
- Talk to them.
Nightmares are the result of stress. If your child is waking up from bad dreams, you should ask them to describe it to you. If you still can’t determine what’s bothering them, ask about school or other environments they’re in when you are not around.
- Be firm but not too firm.
Bedtime rules need to be set in place and enforced. However, if your child has a real fear of their bedroom, sending them back isn’t always the best option. First, walk them back to their room and stay until they fall asleep again.
- No exercise, caffeine or large meals at night.
This is a great opportunity to teach healthy, life-long habits. Sugary sodas, evening exercise and overeating at dinner, make it hard for anyone to sleep. Don’t force them to eat a massive plate of food to prove a point about waste. Keep healthy drinks in the house, and make sure they get exercise during the school day.
- Introduce white noise.
Surprisingly, silence puts many wannabe sleepers on edge. The quiet actually makes external sounds more prominent. If you have a creaky house, introduce a fan to your child’s room to drown out disturbances. You can also try audiobooks, white noise tracks, guided meditation or something similar.