We all know that sleep is an important for children. How can we as parents inculcate healthy sleep habits in children so as to avoid issues as they grow up.
Dr Jenny Tang is a Senior Consultant Paediatrician with the SBCC Baby & Child Clinic Asthma, Lung, Sleep, Allergy & Paediatric Centre. She is the co-author of Sleep medicine: a clinical guide to common sleep disorders that includes some ways that parents can establish good sleep habits in their children.
Establishing Healthy Sleep Habits for Children
Here are nine tips on healthy sleep habits for children based on Dr Jenny Tang’s book.
Have a consistent sleep schedule
Keep to a regular sleep schedule for children. This means having consistent bedtimes and waking up times, as well as nap time. When children are young, this would also mean adapting the family lifestyle to accommodate their sleep schedule.
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Establish a bedtime routine
Having a bedtime routine helps children to transition from activity to sleep. Bedtime routines act as cues to let the body know that it is time to wind down and get some rest. The routine can include as mundane activities such as brushing of teeth, or wind-down activities such as bedtime stories.
Avoid sleep onset associations
Children should go to bed awake but drowsy. They should be taught to self-sooth and fall asleep on their own. This will allow them to learn to fall back asleep independently even if they wake up at night. While Dr Jenny does recommend transitional objects such as a blanket or stuffed doll to encourage independent self-soothing, she says to avoid sleep associations such as breast feeding or bottle feeding.
Avoid night feedings after 6 months
According to Dr Jenny, night feedings are physiologically unnecessary after baby reaches 6 months. Instead, unnecessary night feedings can result in conditioned hunger, increased wetting and disturbed sleep.
Co-sleeping has been associated with Sudden Infant Death Syndrome under certain conditions. In addition, it can possibly also have developmental effects as well as result in difficulty transitioning children to their own bedroom in the future.
Set up the bedroom for rest
The bedroom should be a place of rest. It should be comfortable, quiet and dark. Avoiding activities such as studying or reading on the bed, and don’t place a television in the bedroom. This allows the bedroom to be associated with rest and sleep.
Avoid heavy meals close to bedtime
While you don’t want your child to go to bed hungry, avoid heavy meals too close to bedtime. In addition, stay away from caffeine – which can be found in foods such as chocolate – three to four hours before bedtime.
Take appropriate naps
The need for naps changes as a child grows up. Take appropriate naps for the child’s age and avoid long naps close to bed time.
Get in regular exercise
Getting in some exercise also helps children to fall asleep faster and can enhance the quality of sleep.