Sleep Tools: The “Right” and “Wrong” Sleep Tools for Kids: Sleep Tools that Actually Work
This article provides helpful sleep tools to help children sleep better at night. Affiliate links are included for your convenience. Integrated Learning Strategies (ILS) is a learning and academic center. As a reminder, ILS is not a health care provider and none of our materials or services provide a diagnosis or treatment of a specific condition or learning challenge you may see in your child or student. If you seek a diagnosis or treatment for your child or student, please contact a trained professional who can provide an evaluation of the child.
Many parents find bedtime to be one of the hardest parts of the day. Do you ever feel your child rubs their eyes, yawns and eyelids droop an hour before bedtime and then when it comes time for bed, they are suddenly bouncing off the walls, won’t get in their pajamas and begging to stay up for just 10 more minutes? I guarantee this happens a lot.
Bedtime can be especially difficult for children with sensory issues or learning challenges. Several of these kids, and kids in general, have a hard time winding down, they may be bothered by strange lights, sounds or even the clothing they are wearing. Any number of things surrounding their bedtime could prevent them from getting those extra needed Zs.
If your child is struggling to fall asleep at night or if you are tired of fighting them, there are some dos and don’ts to follow where you can help them fall asleep faster and much easier, especially during school nights.
The “Wrong” Ways to Help Your Child Sleep
“Wrong” is a little harsh, so maybe let’s say, “what to avoid” before bedtime.
The number one item on the list to avoid is any type of electronic (Gameboys, video games, texting, tablets, etc.). Playing with electronic devices less than one hour before bedtime can promote wakefulness and can disrupt the sleep-wake cycle. Kids that use electronic media as a sleep aid often have later bedtimes, experience fewer hours of sleep and are more likely to experience daytime sleepiness.
In addition, the blue light that radiates from our electronic devices restrains the production of melatonin, the hormone controls the sleep/wake cycle.
If electronics are the only way your child winds down or relaxes at night, be sure to get anti-blue light glasses they can wear while on their electronic devices. These types of glasses can block the blue light and reduce stress on the eyes so when your child is ready for bed, they will fall asleep faster.
Caffeinated drinks have a stimulant most people use to stay alert during the day, which can also block sleep-inducing chemicals in the brain needed for bedtime.
We love and encourage movement activities whenever possible. However, before bedtime, if your child has been running around and active, slow them down with some yoga exercises. There are many that are specifically dedicated to preparing kids for bedtime that will slow their heart rate, calm their bodies and relax their minds.
Avoid Sugary Foods
What child or adult doesn’t love a snack before bed? I know I do! It’s the food choices we make that can affect how we sleep. Eating sugary foods before bed can keep our bodies awake and alert instead of settling down. They often make kids especially jumpy and fidgety. Chocolate is one of the worst snacks because it also contains caffeine, making it difficult for the child to wind down.
Hold the Drinks
Another good recommendation is to hold the drinking at least 30 minutes before bedtime. Water, soda and juice can keep your child up if they have to make frequent trips to the bathroom, which could also fully wake the body after they use the restroom. Try to encourage them to use the restroom one more time before thy go to bed as a solution.
The “Right” Ways to help Your Child Sleep
There are some techniques and tools you can use to help your child sleep at night if they can’t seem to get settled or if they have trouble with sensory issues or learning challenges. Some ideas may help more than others so you may have to experiment to see what works best for your child.
Sensory Stimulation Tools
Items like weighted blankets, stuffed animals and sound simulations can calm your child and prepare them for bedtime. The weight of the blanked or being buried in a crowd of stuffed animals can actually make a child feel more safe, secure and can calm the body.
Kids with sensory issues may also need noise-cancelling headphones, sleep masks or sound simulators to drown out all the unwanted stimulation in your house. Even something as simple as the dishwasher humming in the background or a bright light from a street lamp can keep a child awake at night.
We already mentioned to avoid heavy and active exercise at night, but light exercise like kids yoga, deep pressure or compression to the joints and muscles, along with some stretchy band activities can help calm the body.
Your child may think those Superman pajamas are pretty cool, but they could be the reason for keeping your child awake. Many kids are bothered by seams in their clothes, zippers, certain types of material or tags, which can keep them itching and tossing all night long. A solution is to get pajamas that have soft material and that is loose fitting so they can easily relax.
About 30 minutes before bedtime, you can encourage your child to participate in some calming activities. A nice warm bath is a great way to sooth a child and can lower their heart rate. You can also use lavender in a sensory bin, play dough or even bath salts or essential oils, which eases anxiety and insomnia. It can also help your child feel more energetic and well rested in the morning.
Other activities like reading books or looking at family photo albums can relax the body and the brain. Who hasn’t fallen asleep reading a good book on the couch? The more relaxed the body is, the more easily it can prepare itself for sleep. Rocking with your child in a chair or even with them in a hammock swing are also great ways to help your child calm down and slow their heart rate for bedtime.
For additional ideas, here are a few of our favorites to try with your child.
Integrated Learning Strategies is a Utah-based center dedicated to helping mainstream children and children with learning challenges achieve academic success. Our services provide kids with non-traditional tutoring programs within the Davis County, Kaysville, Layton, Syracuse, Farmington, and Centerville areas. Areas to find Integrated Learning Strategies include: Reading tutors in Kaysville, Math tutors in Kaysville, Common Core Tutors in Kaysville, Tutors in Utah, Utah Tutoring Programs
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