We all need to sleep and rest, and this action usually comes naturally at night, especially when we are very tired; but it is not only important to sleep, but also to have a deep, restful and quality sleep, and to sleep the necessary hours.
For this, sleep hygiene is essential; this consists of all those guidelines, habits and measures that favour quality sleep, which makes adequate rest possible.
In childhood, all this is especially important; therefore in this article we will talk about sleep hygiene in children , and we bring you up to 10 guidelines that encourage it.
The importance of (good) sleep
As we have seen in the introduction, it is of great importance to maintain good sleep hygiene to ensure a restful sleep, as sleep is a vital function necessary for many other functions.
Think about when we are excessively tired during the day, dozing, crawling all over the place… Don’t we perform the same? We work worse, we study worse… and we may even be in a bad mood, and even irritable .
This happens to us adults, but to children too. That is why sleep hygiene in children should be promoted and cared for from a very early age. Moreover, the sooner children acquire these habits, the sooner they will internalize them, and the easier it will be for them to continue applying them in the future.
In this article we will focus on sleep hygiene in children, although most of these guidelines can also be applied to adults.
Sleep hygiene in children: how to empower it and help them sleep
Let’s look at 10 guidelines for promoting good sleep hygiene in children:
1. Maintain regular schedules
Routines and schedules are essential pieces to promote good sleep hygiene in children . This means that ideally the youngest ones should go to sleep at the same time each day (or if not at the same time, at least at similar times).
This should be extrapolated to the weekends as well. Routines structure the mind and body and are essential for the body to associate that time with bedtime.
2. Avoiding stimulants
Another guideline to promote sleep hygiene in children is to avoid the use of stimulants; this includes drinks that may contain caffeine, soft drinks such as coca-cola , etc.
Ideally, they should not drink this type of substance, or if they do, at least not at a very late hour of the day, much less before going to sleep.
3. Encourage exposure to light in the morning
Exposure to bright light in the morning is known to bring forward sleep at night, so incorporating this habit into your child’s routine can also help them sleep better. Moreover, if the light is natural, much better .
4. Avoid TV, tablets, cell phones…
The light emitted by devices such as tablets, mobiles and so on, is highly inadvisable when one wants to fall asleep, because they produce just the opposite effect: “awakening” and activating the body and mind.
So, especially in sleep hygiene for children, it is strongly discouraged that they are “hooked” to these devices just before going to sleep ; if they use them, it should be at a reasonable time, for example until five or six in the afternoon.
5. Avoiding video games
Along the lines of the previous guideline, the use of video games before going to sleep is also discouraged, because they tend to excite and activate them (make them “alert”, just the opposite of what is needed to sleep).
6. The bed, to sleep
It seems very absurd, but sometimes we “sin” in this pattern and don’t realize it. The organism, on a mental level, and also on a physiological level, must associate the bed exclusively with sleep; that is why if the little ones, in addition to sleeping in the bed, also play in it, eat, watch movies or other things, this can create real difficulties at the time of going to sleep and falling asleep.
Why? Because your body no longer associates the bed with sleep, but with many other situations, which makes it difficult to sleep. It is a question of classic conditioning (where certain stimuli and responses are matched in an “X” way).
7. Do not use the TV to fall asleep
Another guideline we propose to encourage sleep hygiene in children, related to some previous ones that mention new technologies, is to avoid the use of TV to fall asleep.
Logically, one should not get drastic and avoid TV at all costs (because there are children even who do well), but rather moderate its use. If they can fall asleep with something else, better (for example with a book), because sometimes TV activates them instead of relaxing them.
8. Create an environment that facilitates sleep
It’s common sense; we sleep better in environments where we feel comfortable and at ease, in terms of temperature, position, clothes…
That is why it is very important to take care of the environment where we sleep (that is, in this case the child’s room); this includes adjusting the temperature of the room, encouraging silence, that the child wears appropriate clothes (neither too tight nor too “wide”), etc.
On the other hand, there are children who like a bit of soft music, or sounds that imitate the waves of the sea, the wind, the rain , etc. For this, there are applications that can be useful (check the Google Store or App Store).
9. Encourage regular physical exercise
Practicing sport is great in many ways: one of them is to relax! Although it can activate us (especially depending on the sport), when a certain time passes since training, we feel relaxed and our body appreciates it.
So, regular physical exercise can also promote good sleep hygiene in children.
10. Practice by example
Sometimes, in order to learn according to what habits, there is nothing better than a good model; that is why, as parents, practicing by example can help many of our children in this regard.
This means applying the above guidelines and having the children see it , since as well as modelling, it can help our children become aware of the importance of these habits and that they internalize them more easily.
On the other hand, practicing by example also means creating a calm and peaceful atmosphere at home from mid-afternoon until bedtime.
- Horse (2002). Manual for the cognitive-behavioral treatment of psychological disorders. Vol. 1 and 2. Madrid. Siglo XXI (Chapters 1-8, 16-18).
- JJG Galve. (2009). Advice and help to sleep well. Naturist medicine, 3(2): 72-76.
- P David, M Blanco, M Pedemonte, R Velluti et al. (2008). Sleep Medicine – Chile: Editorial Mediterraneo.