Sleep Aids for Children

Are you looking for sleep aids for children that will help your child fall asleep and stay asleep? A good night's rest begins with you as the parent. It is important to provide your child with structure, schedule, and forms of soothing to prevent sleep deprivation and the resulting physical and behavioral affects.

Sleeping comes more naturally for children. Insomnia in children is not normal. However, children often experience sleep problems and sleep deprivation because of a combination of lifestyle sleep inhibitors. Rarely do children have a true sleep disorder.

The four main factors that influence your child's ability to sleep well and to get enough sleep are:

1. Diet

2. Exercise

3. Electronics

4. Schedule

It is often what occurs during the day that determines how well children sleep at night.



Natural Sleep Aids for Children

Use natural sleep aids for children to help establish healthy sleep patterns at a young age.

Sleep Diet

Did you know that there are foods that stimulate our bodies and make it more difficult to sleep? Here are some diet suggestions for better sleep:

* Have dinner three hours or more before bedtime and avoid big snacks before bedtime.

* Stop drinking sodas and drinks with caffeine. Provide water, juices or milk.

* Avoid eating chocolate

* Remove sources of sugar from the diet

* Provide more natural and healthy food sources like a fresh apple, an orange or grapes as a snack



Exercise and Sleep

Children need natural exercise and fresh air to help them spend some of their youthful energy. When they get home from school before they start any homework, children need to run, walk, play football, or ride bikes.

After sitting all day at school, the worst thing for a child is to sit some more watching TV, playing a video game or surfing on the computer.

Encourage your child to play outside so that that built up energy can be expended.

 

Electronics and Sleep


There are many studies that show the adverse affect of long hours of video or computer games. Agitation and restlessness are common among children who spend their free time in front of an electronic screen. Sleep aids for children include not only what to do, but what NOT to do, to promote sleep.

Especially avoid TV, computer use and video games close to bedtime to prevent over stimulation.

Keep the television/video games/computer/cell phones out of the children's bedrooms.

Children do not have the discipline it takes to NOT turn on some kind of electronic device that's sitting right there in their bedroom. It is just too tempting and it is unfair to expect this from a child.

Sleep Aids for Kids

Schedule and Sleep Children often experience sleep deprivation because of evening and nighttime activities that don't promote good sleep habits. Start promoting a good night's sleep for your child or children by establishing a regular nighttime routine, which is good advice for all ages.

One of the best books on this topic is written by Dr. Marc Weissbluth called Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child. One of my favorite chapters is called How Parents Call Help Their Child Establish Healthy Sleep Habits; You Can Prevent Sleep Disturbances from Infancy to Adult. Just like children need to be taught healthy eating habits, children need to be taught good sleep habits. Naturally a child will choose a chocolate chip cookie over a fresh plate of vegetables - likewise they'll choose to stay up rather than take a nap or go to bed at an earlier time.

* Before bedtime begin to settle down with relaxing activities rather than stimulating activities.

* Establish a firm bedtime and work backwards to ensure you have time to complete everything before bed. Reflect on the time the children need to wake up in the morning and ensure they will get a full night sleep according to the Sleep Chart Below.

* Create a routine. This prepares the children and signals the brain for bed with dinner, bath, reading a story, prayers, and lights-out.

Bedtime Routine Chart

This bedtime routine chart provides a structured way to teach a child good sleep habits and patterns. The child is recognized for actions like for staying in bed and not calling for water, toys, etc.

The chart allows the child to be rewarded for good sleep behaviors with daily stickers and then a special reward at the end of the week - whether it is a toy, a picnic lunch or a new book. This is a helpful tool especially for toddlers who are transitioning from cribs to beds or for parents who have found themselves exhausted from multiple night time interruptions. Good Night, Sleep Tight Reward Chart - The Ultimate Sleep Chart for Children (2yrs+)

Melatonin for Children

While it is true that some children have a harder time or take longer to unwind and to eventually fall asleep, it is not true that children have a melatonin deficiency. Melatonin is a hormone that is produced by the pineal gland to help induce sleep.

Just as adults are tempted to look for sleep aids in a bottle, parents often are tempted to look to some type of sleep medication or supplement for a child that has difficulty sleeping.

Melatonin is a hormone and in fact cannot be purchased over the counter in Europe. Resorting to melatonin medication will not help you explore why your child is struggling with sleep. Giving your child a pill every night will reinforce the idea that he/she is not capable of falling asleep without some type of medication or supplement and reinforce the beginnings of

unhealthy sleep habits. Dr. Marc Weissbuth the author of Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child writs, "Melatonin supplements should not be given to babies or young children to make them sleep better: there is no evidence that it is safe." However, there are things you can do to help stimulate your child's brain to secrete this helpful sleep hormone. Melatonin secretion increases in response to darkness. As your child is getting ready for bed start dimming the lights. Get some tips in the next section on Sleep Environment.

Sleep Environment and Light

While getting on their pajamas use a small bedside light with a low wattage bulb - like 40 watts rather than a bright ceiling light.

The same is true for the bathroom. Use even a small night light while brushing teeth or washing up. Don't turn on the bright overhead bathroom lights.

While reading books before bedtime use the same low light bed lamp to read. When it is time for bed, it's best to have no lights on in the bedroom, not even a night light. Use room darkening shades to keep out outside lights as well.

Remember absolutely no electronics in the bedroom - no handheld video games, no TV, no iPods or iPads, etc. All of these stimulate and excite the brain and are good for daytime use but prevent the child from relaxing at bedtime.

When kids sleep better and longer, guess what .... parents do to. One handy gadget that works well for small children is a clock that tells them, "its to darn early, don't wake up your parents!" Kids actually get excited about this clock - when it is blue, it means you need to stay in bed (and hopefully sleep) and when it is yellow you can get up. The key is to be consistent when you first start using it. When the child gets up and the clock is blue, you gently return them to their bedroom, show them the clock color and remind them that when it turns yellow they may get up. Here is one quote from a reviewer: "Our daughter LOVES having her very own clock and we have gone from getting out of bed at 5am to staying in until 7am in just a couple of weeks!!!!" My Tot Clock: Helping Small Children Sleep Better...So Parents Can Too!

Books on Sleep for Children

A consistent bedtime routine is time consuming, but the payoff is helping kids develop healthy sleep habits and providing adequate restful sleep. Bedtime books and soothing music are my favorite sleep aids for children. Reading to kids or grandchildren before bed has always been a favorite time of day for me. It's a very comforting and reassuring time for the child when he/she has your full attention and re-establishes a loving bond after a full day of school and activities. There are children's books that are about sleep or sleepy animals. I can't say that they help more than another well written children's book but they do help promote the concept that it is bedtime. The animals need their sleep and so do you.

Lately our favorite book is Time for Bed.

The sweet sing song rhymes and colorful illustrations mean I usually read it more than once before lights go out.

Sleep Environment and Music

Music CD's or calm books on tape make good sleep aids for children. Our granddaughters love listening to soothing music to fall asleep. One evening when they were spending the night I put on The Little Mermaid, but when Poor Unfortunate Souls started playing, all of my good intentions backfired. So now I play Baby Beluga by Raffi. Raffi has a very soothing voice and sound. You can create your own playlist or download a whole album. Play the same album routinely so that your child will associate the music with sleep.

Eventually the music or song will actually help signal the brain that it's time to unwind and fall asleep.

Sleep Chart

How Much Sleep Does My Child Need?

This chart comes from The American Academy of Pediatrics Guide to Your Child's Sleep. The sleep time is for 24-hours, which includes nighttime and naps. Children's sleep needs will vary with age. Observe your children's behavior. Are they sleepy during the day? Are they wired at bedtime? Could they be sleeping too much or not enough at night?

- Between Birth-Six Months, children need 16-20 hours
- Between Six-Twelve Months, children need 14-15 hours
- Between Ages 1-3, children need 10-13 hours
- Between Ages 3-10, children need 10-12 hours
- Between Ages 11-12, children need about 10 hours
- Teenagers need about 9 hours of sleep per night

Signs of Sleep Deprivation

Continuous sleep deprivation has serious negative affects on children. Lack of sleep interferes with their ability to learn and to cope with daily stresses.

A neighbor's 5 year old child was crying everyday at school when he started kindergarten. Even after several weeks the crying continued. The mother wisely moved his bedtime from 8:00 PM to 7:00 PM. This extra hour of sleep has helped dramatically with her son's attitude and emotional well being at home and in the classroom as noted by the mother AND the teacher.

A recent Finnish study suggests that children's short sleep duration even without sleeping difficulties increases the risk for behavioral symptoms of ADHD.

Sleep aids for children include more than behavioral options, however it is the best place to start. Before taking further measures, reflect on the child's routines and nighttime schedule. Does the current evening situation set the child up for a quality night sleep with a winding down routine?

If you find that these natural sleep aids are not helping your child or if they are still tired after the required hours of sleep seek the medical advice of your child's primary care doctor.

Sleep Well, Live Well


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