Another New Year has begun. For many people, this is a great time for fresh beginnings: eating healthier, getting in shape, working on goals that got pushed aside over the past year.
Keeping your child on a sleep schedule might be one of those forgotten-about goals, especially between balancing cancer treatment and the holiday season festivities. Getting her back on track is a great resolution to make—and keep.
Here are 4 tips for getting your child back on a healthy sleep schedule.
1. Know How Much Sleep Your Child Needs.
Kids at different ages need noticeably different amounts of sleep, explains the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP). Children under a year old should get up to 16 hours of sleep a day. But by the time they reach their teen years, they might only need 8 to 10 hours.
Keep in mind that cancer treatment can cause extra fatigue and your child might need more sleep because of that.
But regardless of how much sleep your child needs, making sure she gets those all-important zzzzz’s can be beneficial in many ways. According to the AAP, getting the right amount of sleep can boost your child’s:
- Emotional regulation
- Learning and memory
- Physical and mental health
2. Make Your Child’s Room Sleep-Friendly.
Your child’s hospital room might not feel as comfortable as his bedroom back home, but bringing along those at-home touches—like his favorite stuffed animal and night light—can help.
And when your child is at home, the National Sleep Foundation recommends making his bedroom a comfortable place for sleeping by:
- Using a night light with a red bulb. Red light is less stimulating and can help your child fall asleep more easily.
- Covering any lights on electronics. Tiny flashing lights on sound machines and other electronic devices can be bright and distracting after lights-out.
- Putting up blackout curtains. These light-blocking, room-darkening curtains can prevent outside light from keeping your child up—or waking him. They make naptime better, too.
- Using white noise. White noise—from a ceiling fan or a white noise machine or app—can soothe your child to sleep. It can also keep him from hearing noises outside his room that might otherwise wake him up.
3. Keep An Eye On Your Child’s Screen Time
The lights and sounds from electronics can keep your child up even after the screen has been turned off. And the temptation to reach for a tablet or cell phone sitting on a nightstand begins at a young age.
When possible, move electronics out of your child’s reach at night to minimize that temptation. And put an end to screen time at least 30 minutes before your child’s bedtime, says the AAP.
4. Create—And Keep—A Simple Bedtime Routine.
Kids thrive on routine and consistency, explains the AAP. So it makes sense that a bedtime routine can help your child stick to a healthy sleep schedule.
Think about what needs to happen in order for your child to be ready to go to bed. Does he need to take his medication, wash up, read a book, give you a hug and a kiss, and then say good night?
This is a simple, adaptable routine that he can stick to anywhere. And adaptability is important, especially if your child is in and out of the hospital often.
Please share your thoughts in the comments below.