Getting enough sleep is hard for everyone, but it can be particularly difficult for kids. Their high energy and excitement can make it that much harder for them to settle in at night. However, getting enough sleep is most important during childhood. Childhood is the time in life when human beings do the most changing and developing. All that growth takes up lots of energy, which is why it's so important that kids are well-rested.
In addition to a bad mood and lack of focus, poor sleep can have negative consequences on a child's health. A study published in the journal Pediatric Obesity found that children who slept for fewer hours or had later bed times were more likely to be overweight than their well-rested peers. Getting a good night's sleep early on can help your children build healthy habits they'll take with them for their entire lives. Here are some ways you can help facilitate quality sleep:
Keep a close eye on what your kids are eating and drinking, and make sure they cut back on sleep-disrupting foods well before bedtime. Chocolate, caffeinated beverages and other sugary foods are bound to make it harder for your child to sleep through the night. In addition, it's a good idea to cut back on drinking any liquids an hour or so before bed. If your child drinks a lot of water right before they climb into bed, the odds are good they'll have to wake up in the middle of the night to go to the bathroom. Make sure your kids are getting plenty of water throughout the day so they're not thirsty late at night.
Build a routine
Set a specific bedtime, and enforce it nightly. If you haven't done this yet, it might be hard to make this adjustment. With a little bit of practice, however, your children will be tired when bedtime rolls around. To help ease the transition, extend the routine at least 30 minutes before bedtime itself. Perform the same tasks each night, and eventually your child's body will learn to associate those tasks with sleep. Some tasks, like brushing and flossing teeth, will naturally be part of this routine. You can also add things like reading or stretching to encourage other healthy habits before bed.
For your kids to sleep through the night, their room needs to be totally distraction-free. This means that it should be dark, quiet and not too warm. You should also ban televisions in the bedroom. This goes for adults as well - rooms with TVs are notoriously hard to sleep in, even when the TV is off. Bedrooms should be tailored for sleeping - this also means you should move toys and play out of this room, if possible. This way your child doesn't associate the space with high-energy activities, and only thinks of it as a place to rest.
Limit screen usage
Parents should restrict TV, cellphone and computer usage at least 30 minutes (but ideally an hour) before bed. There are a few reasons for this. First of all, the bright light from screens can prevent your child's brain from producing melatonin, the chemical that makes him or her sleepy. What's on the screen matters as well - playing games or watching videos makes your child's brain run on top speed, and it needs some time to cool down after these kinds of activities before it can quiet for sleep. Setting a strict cut-off time for screens will help you sleep better, as well - the same applies to adults.
"Notifications at night will disturb your child's sleep."
This comes as a subset of limiting screen usage, but if you have a tween with a cellphone or other mobile device, he or she should never have it in bed with them. Constant notifications during the night will, at best, disturb your child's sleep. At worst, there's a good chance your kids will be fully awake and texting in the middle of the night. Set up a rule that phones and other devices are not allowed in the bedroom at night. If your kids protest, explain that you're not trying to limit interaction with their friends - you're only making sure they're getting the rest their bodies need. They might not like this answer right now, but they'll thank you for it in the long run.