5 Things to Do When Your Child Can’t Sleep

Sleep is an important part of your child’s health. Lack of enough sleep has been tied to obesity, memory problems, behavioral problems, and depression in children. Your child needs at least 8 hours of restful sleep at night; younger children may need up to 12 hours.

Sleep lets us release whatever happened during the day and store up energy to tackle the next day. When we don’t sleep or our sleep is interrupted throughout the night, we don’t release and reenergize. This is true for adults. It’s true for your children as well.

Here are five things you can do if your child is having trouble sleeping.

  1. Create bedtime routines for your children if they don’t already have them. Set regular times for going to bed and getting up. Parents need to work together on this and be consistent. When your child has a set bedtime, his or her body begins to wind down and get sleepy around the same time every night. Make this time something your child can look forward to. Younger children, for example, often enjoy their parents reading to them at bedtime. This could become part of your routine.
  2. Prepare your child’s room for sleep. Make sure the room is at a comfortable temperature for sleeping. Check that there are enough covers to keep your children warm throughout the night. This will keep them from awakening because they’re cold (or too hot). Turn the lights out when they go to bed.
  3. Cut back on their stimulants during the day. What keeps children up at night?
    • Too much sugar and caffeine (sodas, energy drinks, tea, coffee)
    • Too many electronic toys
    • Too much TV
    • Too many places to go and people to see – soccer, dance class, music lessons, basketball practice, swimming lessons. If your kids have too many activities on their plate to relax, they’re probably too tired to enjoy all of them. It’s time to let them choose one or two. Let the others go so that your kids can have some much-needed downtime.
  4. Talk during the day. Ask questions. Is there anything on your child’s mind that could be keeping him or her awake? It’s hard to sleep when problems are weighing on your mind. Let your children know they can share these problems with you.
  5. Find out if your kids are having nightmares. If they are, discuss them and see if you can figure out why they’re happening. If they continue, seek counseling for your child.

If your child has asthma, snores loudly, or seems to be in genuine distress during the night, it’s time to get your pediatrician involved. There may be medical reasons why your child can’t sleep throughout the night.