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7 Ways To Get Your Child To Sleep Better

Last updated March 28, 2015

Approved by: Maulik P. Purohit MD, MPH


Children who struggle with sleep may inhibit their growth because of a daily growth hormone deficit.

Sleep is essential for a healthy child’s psychological and biological development. Children who struggle with sleep may inhibit their growth because of a daily growth hormone deficit. Unfortunately, physicians and psychologists estimated as many as 30 percent of children may have a sleep disorder and struggle with sleep.

Poor sleep is associated with heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and depression. It is also one of the largest risk factors for obesity. Sleep disorders can also impede social-emotional adjustment in children by making them moodier and school performance with worse grades. A 2013 study in Brazil evaluated children aged seven to ten. The researchers found that children with symptoms of sleep disorders or sleep breathing disorders earned poorer grades than those without problems sleeping, on average.

Within the population of sleep deprived children, 13 percent of children had failing grades in the Portuguese class, compared to nine percent of those without sleep problems. In addition, 25 percent of kids with disrupted sleep had failing math grades, versus eight percent of children without sleeping problems.

Making sure you kids have a full night’s rest is essential to their health and academic performance. Here are seven ways to help your child to sleep better.

1.       Establish a consistent bedtime.

Every child may have a slightly different bedtime because each person is different. However, when you figure out when the best bedtime is for your child, set it and stick to it. Your child's internal body clock will adjust better if the bedtime is consistent. Be sure to set a waking time to preserve a consistent sleep duration.

2.       Have a consistent bedtime routine.

Just like how an athlete engages in a routine in order to prepare for a match, a routine can help your mind and body get ready for bed.

3.       Get the television and computer out of the bedroom.

One study published in Pediatrics surveyed parents and 495 children in grades kindergarten through fourth grade. They found that most television-viewing practices examined were associated with at least one type of sleep disturbance. They reported, “The television-viewing habits associated most significantly with sleep disturbance were increased daily television viewing amounts and increased television viewing at bedtime, especially in the context of having a television set in the child's bedroom.”

4.      Keep the house dim at least two hours before bedtime.

Your body is dependent on light to help it determine if it is daytime or nighttime. When it gets dark, our bodies secrete a hormone called melatonin, which tells us it is time to sleep. Blue light, in particular, is very effective in inhibiting melatonin production. Staying away from too much artificial light right before bedtime can help your child get ready for bed.

5.      Reduce stress before bedtime.

Another hormone called cortisol plays a role in sleep. Cortisol is known as the stress hormone and can keep your child awake late if there is a stressful environment. Researchers from the Pennsylvania State University found a link between stress and long-term insomnia, the inability to fall or stay asleep.

6.      Set the house temperature to cool.

Research published in the American Journal of Physiology found that there is an inverse relationship between melatonin secretion and core body temperature. If your home is too warm, then your child may not be able to fall asleep.

7.      Provide protection from fears.

According to a review in SLEEP, bedtime problems and frequent night waking occur in approximately 20 percent to 30 percent of infants, toddlers, and preschoolers. Please do not ignore a child’s fear before bedtime, whether it is the dark or a scary monster. Allow your child a chance to tell you what makes him/her scared at night. Provide a security object that can help them feel more relaxed at night. Be sure to protect your child from exposure to scary television shows and videos. Lastly, try to build their confidence.

These are a few ways to help your child have a peaceful slumber. These methods may not work for everyone. If this is the case, please see a sleep specialist to make sure your child does not have a sleep disorder. 

Additional Resources:

Alvaro, P. K., Roberts, R. M., & Harris, J. K. (2013). A systematic review assessing bidirectionality between sleep disturbances, anxiety, and depression.Sleep, 36(7), 1059.

Brandenberger, G., Gronfier, C., Chapotot, F., Simon, C., & Piquard, F. (2000). Effect of sleep deprivation on overall 24 h growth-hormone secretion. The Lancet, 356(9239), 1408.

Cappuccio, F. P., Cooper, D., D'Elia, L., Strazzullo, P., & Miller, M. A. (2011). Sleep duration predicts cardiovascular outcomes: a systematic review and meta-analysis of prospective studies. European heart journal, 32(12), 1484-1492.

Cappuccio, F. P., D'Elia, L., Strazzullo, P., & Miller, M. A. (2010). Quantity and Quality of Sleep and Incidence of Type 2 Diabetes A systematic review and meta-analysis. Diabetes care, 33(2), 414-420.

Cappuccio, F. P., Taggart, F. M., Kandala, N. B., & Currie, A. (2008). Meta-analysis of short sleep duration and obesity in children and adults. Sleep, 31(5), 619.

de Carvalho, L. B. C., do Prado, L. B. F., Ferrreira, V. R., da Rocha Figueiredo, M. B., Jung, A., de Morais, J. F., & do Prado, G. F. (2013). Symptoms of sleep disorders and objective academic performance. Sleep medicine, 14(9), 872-876.

Figueiro, M. G., Wood, B., Plitnick, B., & Rea, M. S. (2011). The impact of light from computer monitors on melatonin levels in college students.Neuroendocrinology Letters, 32(2), 158-163.

Gooley, J. J., Chamberlain, K., Smith, K. A., Khalsa, S. B. S., Rajaratnam, S. M., Van Reen, E., ... & Lockley, S. W. (2010). Exposure to room light before bedtime suppresses melatonin onset and shortens melatonin duration in humans. The Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism, 96(3), E463-E472.

Owens, J., Maxim, R., McGuinn, M., Nobile, C., Msall, M., & Alario, A. (1999). Television-viewing habits and sleep disturbance in school children. Pediatrics,104(3), e27-e27.

SLEEP, P. (2006). Behavioral treatment of bedtime problems and night wakings in infants and young children. Sleep, 29(10), 1263.

Vgontzas, A. N., Tsigos, C., Bixler, E. O., Stratakis, C. A., Zachman, K., Kales, A., ... & Chrousos, G. P. (1998). Chronic insomnia and activity of the stress system: a preliminary study. Journal of psychosomatic research, 45(1), 21-31.

Wyatt, J. K., Ritz-De Cecco, A., Czeisler, C. A., & Dijk, D. J. (1999). Circadian temperature and melatonin rhythms, sleep, and neurobehavioral function in humans living on a 20-h day. American Journal of Physiology-Regulatory, Integrative and Comparative Physiology, 277(4), R1152-R1163.

Reviewed and Approved by a member of the DoveMed Editorial Board
First uploaded: March 28, 2015
Last updated: March 28, 2015