While those of you with young kids may not want to hear it, there are still times when children who are in elementary school have sleep issues. Sometimes they are ongoing from when they were younger, sometimes there are new issues that can affect their sleep. Here are my top tips to make sure your elementary aged child is getting the sleep they need to be happy and healthy.
Make Sure It Is Not Medical
There are medical issues that affect children of all ages and many of these can affect sleep. If your child is having trouble sleeping, you want to first check into any medical issues that could be affecting their sleep. Check side effects for medicines they may be taken for example. If a sleep issue comes on suddenly, make sure they are not sick. Children with ADHD or Sensory Processing Disorder can also have a hard time settling down and falling asleep so be sure to discuss ways to make this easier on them with your child’s doctor or therapist. Children can also have Obstructive Sleep Apnea which can cause them to sleep worse than they should be. Some warning signs for this are restless sleep, snoring, mouth breathing, and extreme sweating. Be sure to mention any of these to your child’s pediatrician. Here is some more information about Obstructive Sleep Apnea – http://www.sleepapnea.org/treat/childrens-sleep-apnea.html
Make Sure Bedtime Is Not Too Late
5 to 9 year olds still need between 10 and 11 hours of sleep at night. That means if they wake up around 7, they should be asleep between 8 and 9. We should all take between 10 and 20 minutes to fall asleep at night, so children should be in bed that long before their ideal asleep time.
Have A Relaxing Bedtime Routine
With homework and after school activities, you may find evenings are very rushed with elementary aged children, but still try to have some sort of a relaxing bedtime routine. Ideally, your child’s bedtime routine would start about an hour before they should be asleep. In that hour, lights should be dim and electronics should not be used. The light from electronics stop our bodies from producing melatonin, a calming hormone that helps us fall asleep. Reading books is a great way to relax before bed.
Create a Sleep Conducive Environment
Your child’s bedroom should be conducive to sleep. Ideal sleeping temperature is between 65 and 72 degrees, slightly cooler is better for sleep. The room should be pretty dark as well. A dim nightlight is fine if they feel better about having one, but it is not necessary. If they are bothered by outside noises, a white noise machine is a great addition. At their age, they may pick whatever sound they prefer.
If your elementary aged child is having trouble sleeping, be sure to discuss the situation with them. Try to plan a time to sit down with them when things are calm. Discuss with them how important sleep is so that they can be healthy and do well in school. Here is a cute website that can help your child learn about why sleep is important for them – http://sleepforkids.org/ . Discuss with your child why they are having trouble sleeping. Do not put any ideas into their heads, but do ask questions about why they are having trouble. Ask them what they need to help them sleep better. If they are having bad dreams or fears, check out these 2 blog posts I wrote about this issue - Bad Guys, And Black Snakes And Sharks, Oh My And Fears Part 2. Sometimes just talking about the issues will make things better.
Do you have questions or tips to help elementary aged children sleep? Feel free to comment below!