Is your child sleeping enough? 

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends that children age 6-12 years old get 9-12 hours of sleep each night. For preschool age kids, the recommendation is 10-13 hours each night. By a virtual raise of hands, how many of our kids are getting even close to that?

 Yep, we thought so. 

Studies show that getting enough sleep at night impacts mood and helps our children focus, learn and grow, but for so many it is an ongoing struggle. According to the AAP, 25% of kids under 5 are not getting the amount of sleep that they need. For children with autism or ADHD, sleep struggles are particularly prevalent. As many as 80% of children with autism reportedly experience trouble sleeping. 

What are the best strategies that can help your child achieve healthy sleep habits? These strategies can change your child’s sleep patterns, but remember that change takes time. Keep a log of your child’s healthy sleep journey by noting when they sleep (including naps) and any activities or strategies that may have impacted their sleep schedule. 

  1. To begin, record your child’s sleep schedule as it is. Putting it down on paper enables you to take a close look at the routine and notice any patterns. Something as simple as a 20 minute nap on the bus ride home from school could be foiling plans for an early bedtime.

  1. Take note of your child’s intake of caffeine, sugar and oral medication. Any of these could be the culprit of nighttime struggles to fall asleep and stay asleep. If medications are the issue, speak to your child’s doctor about possible adjustments.

  2. Establish a predictable routine. The 2 hour period before bedtime should look more or less the same each day. The period immediately before bedtime should look nearly identical. For example, dinner, play time and bath time should follow the same order each day, as much as possible. Consider creating a visual schedule, using pictures to outline the bedtime routine. Use generic photos from the internet or even pictures of your child completing bathtime, brushing teeth, story time and any other aspects of the routine. This will allow them to see the consistent and predictable schedule and help them adapt to it.

  1. Be consistent with wake/sleep times- it’s not just the hours of sleep, but also the consistency in timing that counts.

  1. Reduce screen time during the period before bedtime. Our bodies use light as an indicator that it is day time and darkness as a cue for night time. Our sleep-wake hormone, melatonin, is produced when our body detects that it is night time. The light emitted from screens time tricks our bodies into thinking it is day time and inhibits melatonin production.  For the opposite effect, dim the lights in your home as you begin to wind down your child’s day to cue their brains that bedtime is nearing. When it’s time for bed, keep the room is as dark as possible.

  2. Make sure your child is getting plenty of movement during the day. This can be challenging in the winter time when the days are short and spent mostly inside. Think about how and when your kids can still get movement in, even while indoors. A Hopper Ball or Sqeaky Spots can help with that!

hopper balls and squeaky spots

  1. Fill the time before bed with calming sensory regulation activities. These can include relaxing with a Calm Down Jar,  some heavy work pushing the laundry basket down the hallway, wheelbarrow walking to the bedroom, taking a warm bubble bath, massaging with lotion and snuggling with a Yummy Cuddly Weighted Blanket!

emoji calm down jar and yummy cuddly blanket

  1. Take the time to discuss your child’s day with them. Though their stresses may seem small to us, to a child they can be HUGE. Talk through any stressful events that occurred during the day and discuss a plan for the future (if relevant). Giving your child the space to acknowledge their worries can spare them the tossing and turning at night.


Have something to add to the conversation? We’d LOVE to hear from you at [email protected]! What tips have you found helpful? What strategies have helped your child? 

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