How to Create a Restful Sleep Routine for Kids
Sleep is crucial for everyone, especially for kids who experience mental and physical development every day.
For any parent, you’ll know that a good night’s sleep is about more than just getting your child to fall asleep (although, that can be an enormously stressful task in its own right); it’s about getting them to fall asleep, stay asleep and wake feeling rested. One of the best ways to achieve this is through a night-time routine.
You may be surprised to hear that a positive night-time routine starts as soon as kids rise and ends when their eyes shut at the end of the day. Let’s walk through a day of habits that can create a restful sleep routine.
How much sleep do children need?
Going to sleep and waking up at the same time is essential for a regular sleep routine, and can result in a greater amount of sleep over night.1 It’s okay to go to bed 30 minutes later or sleep in for an extra hour but try to keep it as consistent as possible. A few hours here and there may not seem like much, but it can make a world of difference.
The National Sleep Foundation recommends:2
- Newborns-3 months old: the ample amount of sleep required is 14-17 hours, split between night and day, with breaks for feeding.
- 4-11 months: they should start sleeping throughout the night, for anywhere from 12-15 hours. They should also take naps throughout the day.
- Toddlers from 1-2 years: around 11-14 hours a day, mostly at night, and some naps during the day.
- Children 3-5 years old: 10-13 hours a night, with fewer naps.
- Kids 6-13 years old: 9-11 hours of sleep a night.
- Teenagers need around 8-10 hours of sleep a night.
Better sleep starts in the morning
While waking up to the rays of the sun may seem like something of a fairy tale, there’s merit to the madness! Obtaining natural light in the morning can advance melatonin offset and regulate the sleep cycle, known as circadian rhythm.3 Doing morning exercise in the sun, like going for a walk, can be a great way to get the body moving, too!
Throughout the day, try to keep as much consistency as possible. Consider regular mealtimes, activity times and nap time. It’s best to keep their caffeine intake to a minimum, especially in the afternoon. For teenagers, watch out for energy drinks, coffee and chocolate.
Winding down before bed
One of the best things you can do for a better night’s sleep is to limit screen time. Keep devices like TVs and video games out of bedrooms, and turn off smartphones, tablets and other screens a few hours before bed. Remind your kids that the bed is purely for sleeping and rest.
So, if you can’t watch TV with them, what can you do?
A Bedtime Routine
The best sleeping environment is a cool, dark and quiet place. Ensure it’s not too hot or too cold, with minimal noise.
Create a bedtime routine with your child; this may include an agreement on how many books you’ll read together or what pyjamas they wear. It may be useful to write these steps down together in a sequence. For example, this could include:
- Have a bath
- Put on pyjamas that they want to wear
- Drink a cup of chamomile tea
- Brush teeth
- Get into bed
- Read a book
- Lights out + sleep time
Be sure to praise your child if they’ve kept to the routine to encourage continuation. Focus on their success and support the behaviour to ensure it becomes a helpful habit in their lives.
If they resist going to sleep, remind them of the benefits of sleep, such as waking up more energetic or being more awake for exciting activities the next day.
If your toddler or child finds it difficult to fall asleep, it may be an opportune time to incorporate mindfulness techniques, such as breathing exercises or positive imagery. Relaxation techniques can reduce stress, calm the mind and relax any pre-sleep nerves or worries.4
Some breathing techniques include the 4-7-8 method, known as the relaxing breath. Inhale for 4 seconds, hold the breath for 7 seconds and exhale for 8 seconds. Repeat for as many times as necessary. Other techniques involve the whole body, such as telling your kids to squeeze everything and make every muscle in their body tense for a few seconds and then releasing.
Using a restful sleep routine can help kids drift off peacefully and let them reap all the wonderful benefits that sleep has to offer.
1 Staples, A., Bates, J., Peterson, I., (2015) ‘Bedtime Routines in Early Childhood: Prevalence, Consistency and Associations with Night time Sleep,’ [online]: Society for Research in Child Development.
2National Sleep Foundation (2015) ‘National Sleep Foundation Recommends New Sleep Times’.
3Wirz-Justice, A., Graw, P., Krauchi, K., Sarrafzadeh, A., English, J., Arendt, J., Sand, L., (1995) ‘’Natural’ light treatment of seasonal affective disorder’, [online]: Journal of Affective Disorders.
4Pascoe MC, Thompson DR, Jenkins ZM, Ski CF (2014) ‘Mindfulness mediates the physiological markers of stress: Systematic review and meta-analysis.’ Journal Psychiatric Res. 2017 pp.156‐178.