How can I help my child get a good night's sleep?

Dr. Michael Roizen, MD
Internal Medicine
For bright-eyed mornings and solid snoozes, feed your children a diet with omega-3-rich foods (e.g., avocado, walnuts, canola oil, fish oil), 100% whole grains, very little saturated fat, and lots of veggies. Help them get plenty of physical exercise and encourage them to spend face-to-face time with friends. They'll sleep better -- like a baby (although not for as long) -- and so will you, at any age.
Start with good sleep habits at a very young age. Infants should be put to bed while drowsy, but not fully asleep so they learn to fall asleep on their own in their own crib. Do not give them a bottle to fall asleep and do not hold or rock them until they are asleep -- If you do this, when your child wakes in the middle of the night, they will be looking for that bottle or for you to rock them asleep again and these are hard habits to break. Keep the same bedtime routine each night. This may include a bath, reading to them, etc. Keep the bedtime and awake time the same every day - don't stray too far from this on weekends or holidays, as it may be hard for them to adjust to their regular schedule again. Avoid all drinks with caffeine (sodas, teas, etc.). Keep the lights in the house and their room dim at night and keep the house bright during the day - the body relies on this light/dark cycle to establish a regular sleep pattern. Do not overstimulate your child's brain before bed - this means not playing computer or video games before bed and not letting them have a TV in their room. Also, do not let your young children watch scary TV shows or movies. 
RealAge
Administration
Be sure to enforce a bedtime that allows your child to get enough sleep. Not the easiest of tasks, I’m sure, if you’re the parent of a teenager who would rather stay up late and watch TV or instant message his friends on the computer than get some extra shut-eye. If the computer, television, and video game system are all located within the privacy of your teen’s bedroom, an early bedtime may be the last thing on his mind. Here’s what I recommend: Remove the TV, the computer, and the video game system and let the bedroom be a place for sleep -- not recreation. No doubt your teen will react with mumbles and groans when you take this step, but it’s an important one, especially if your child’s grades are suffering.

From Good Kids, Bad Habits: The RealAge Guide to Raising Healthy Children by Jennifer Trachtenberg.
Good Kids, Bad Habits: The RealAge Guide to Raising Healthy Children

More About this Book

Good Kids, Bad Habits: The RealAge Guide to Raising Healthy Children

When kids start going on TV binges or devouring fistfuls of cookies, it's easy to say, "They'll grow out of it." More likely, they're acquiring bad habits that could lead to childhood obesity and...
Watch as Dr. Michael Breus provides tips on how parents can help their child get a good night's sleep.
 
Lynne Kenney
Psychology
From a developmental-behavioral perspective sleep is about internal rhythms and self-soothing strategies. Getting to sleep involves being able to read and listen to environmental cues that tell the brain to rest.

Step 1: Establish clear rhythms and routines for your child. Children develop internal rhythms that tell their bodies to wake and sleep. Establish a sleeping routine. Order rather than time is key. Children have a need for mastery. If your child eats, bathes, reads with you and then gets into bed for sleep that is the beginning of a happy sleep routine. Do the same routine in the same order each night.

Step 2: Practice good timing. A 1-3 year old will sleep 12-14 hrs. every 24 hours. If your child naps, generally she will not sleep again for about six hours, on average. So if nap-time is 1:00-2:00 pm she will likely be ready to sleep again at 8:00 pm. One challenge I often see is nap-time that ends too close to bedtime. So consider your child’s sleep timing.

Step 3: Provide the opportunity for quality sleep. The environment signals to the brain…sleep. Getting night-shades or room-darkening shades so that your child can fall asleep may help. A sound machine or classical music is also a useful tool. Reading rather than TV has been found to assist in getting to sleep.

Step 4: Help your child learn to get back to sleep. Children generally arouse every 60-90 minutes, thus needing to have the self-soothing skills to get back to sleep. Having a love object in the bed that your child can hold for soothing may be key. If your child calls to you, assuming she is safe, wait a few minutes to see if she can soothe herself back to sleep.

Step 5: Celebrate Success. Preschoolers love recognition, it helps them feel cherished and important. A sticker chart over the bed that recognizes falling asleep and staying in one’s bed can be relished by children. Making a crown and celebrating your “sleep princess” in the morning at breakfast has also been known to be sweet and effective.


Michele Borba
Psychology
A lack of sleep can have a serious impact on children’s abilities to learn and perform at school.

In fact, in one recent study, Tel Aviv University researchers found that missing just one hour of sleep can be enough to reduce a child’s cognitive abilities by almost two years the next day. For example, a sixth grader who loses precious zzz’s the night before a big test could end up performing at a fourth grade level.

Set a bedtime and keep to it every single night.

Flashing images affect REM, so be sure to turn off the computer and television at least thirty minutes prior to bedtime.

Watch out for caffeinated sleep stealers like cold medications, chocolate, and those energy-drinks.

Take away the cell phones during nighttime hours—62% of kids admit they use it after the lights go out and their parents are clueless.

This content originally appeared on http://www.micheleborba.com/blog/2011/02/08/7-simple-science-backed-ways-to-boost-school-success.

Continue Learning about Healthy Sleeping

Healthy Sleeping

Healthy Sleeping

Healthy sleep isn't just about getting enough sleep; getting the right kind counts, too. While you sleep your brain stays active, and it actually takes several stages of sleep to make you feel well and refreshed. Just how much sle...

ep we need changes as we age, from 16 to 18 hours a day for newborns to 7 to 8 hours a night for adults. If you find yourself feeling tired or fatigued during the day even after a full night in bed, you may have a sleep disorder. See your family doctor or a sleep specialist for help.
More

Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.