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Bedtime Bliss – Strategies for Sleep

Sleep is vital for our growth, immunity, learning and Development and memory.  It helps children to heal and recover. Regular sleep routines with good quantity and quality of sleep is what Healthy Sleep is defined as. Reducing arousal levels is an important aspect of promoting good sleep hygiene.

As parents we need to help our child get sleepy!!

How much sleep is needed for my child is the Million-dollar question?  Just like us, your child is an individual and will have their own unique needs. That’s why the amount of sleep a child will have can vary from child to child. The guides will give a broad range of what is needed.

Sleep Guide
Every child is different and we need to follow our own child’s needs.

Age Recommended sleep hours per 24 hr period.
Newborns: 0-4 months 14-17 hrs (including daytime naps)
Infants: 4-12 months 12-16 hrs (including naps)
Toddlers: 1-3 yrs 11-14 hrs (including naps)
Pre-schoolers: 3-5 yrs 11-13 hrs (including naps)
School Age: 6-12 yrs 9 to 11 hrs
Adolescents: 13-18 yrs 8 to 10 hrs

Tips that may help a child sleep:

Physical activity helps children of all ages fall asleep faster and stay asleep. Most children need at least 1 hr of exercise per day but avoid vigorous activity within 2 hrs of bedtime to stop the increase of arousal levels.

Nutrition to sleep well
Feeling hungry or being too full are both reasons why children can’t sleep.

  • Timing:
    Eating too late shuts off melatonin production and delays sleep. Time the evening meal about 2 to 3 hrs before bedtime, and the earlier the better if eating riles up a child.  A snack before bed is appropriate, but no food should be eaten later than 20 mins before bedtime.
  • Foods promoting sleep:
    Complex carbohydrates, such as whole wheat bread or crackers; protein, such as meat or dairy; and tryptophan containing foods such as cheese, yogurt or peanuts.
  • Before bed avoid:
    Processed sugars (like sugary drinks, ice-cream) or caffeine (like coffee or chocolate) as these can keep children awake.

Sensory supports for sleep
Different sensations can increase arousal or lower arousal (calm). Each child can be different so watch for their preferences and how they react to sensations especially in the hour before bedtime and during the sleep routine.

  • Visuals:
    Dull lighting is calming whereas bright lights/colours can increase arousal.  Remember melatonin kicks in when its dark.  During wind down activities dull the lighting.  Limit screen time before bedtime, as the blue light from electronic devices can interfere with the body’s natural sleep-wake cycle.
  • Sounds:
    Use calming sounds such as white noise, nature sounds, or soft music to create a relaxing atmosphere and mask any disturbing background noises.  Read a book in a calm monotone voice and not an excitable voice before bedtime.
  • Touch:
    Some children prefer wearing comfortable pyjamas (no tags, inside out so no seams), some prefer more tighter clothes, some enjoy deep pressure massages or cuddles or taking a warm shower.
  • Smells:
    Some smells can be soothing such as lavender chamomile or vanilla to create a relaxing atmosphere.  You can use essential oils, room sprays.
  • Room Temperature:
    Ideal temperature for comfortable sleep is between 15-19 Celcius.
  • Sleep Environment:
    Using child’s bedroom for sleep only.  If sharing a room, ensure that children aren’t revving each other up – Consider different bedtimes according to age. 

Sleep Routine
Setting a routine and predictability.

  • Consistency is key:
    Establishing a consistent bedtime routine can help children prepare mentally and physically for sleep each night.
  • Wind down time:
    Allow for 30-60 mins wind-down time before bed to give children time to relax and become sleepy before bed.
  • Calming activities:
    Encourage activities that promote relaxation and calmness such as meditation apps (Smiling Minds or Bedtime Explorers), reading a book, colouring, doing puzzles, or listening to calming music. If cleaning teeth or any other activity hypes a child up ensure it happens before wind down time.
  • Keep it simple:
    Keep the bedtime routine simple and consistent to help children feel secure and comfortable before bed.
  • Use positive reinforcement:
    Praise and reward children for following their bedtime routine to encourage good sleep habits.
  • Be patient;
    It may take time for children to adjust to a new bedtime routine, so be patient and consistent with the approach.


For further information

Information from Children’s Health Queensland.

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