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Jun 30, 2023

Great bedtime routines and strategies to manage sleep for young children


Sleep is always a cause of concern for parents and carers. Is my child getting enough sleep? How do I establish a good sleep routine? Why does my child wake up at night? These are all common questions and concerns families have around sleep and rest.

There’s no surprise in saying sleep is really important and has many benefits. Sleep and rest help children recover physically – being active and playing is hard work. It helps children to process what they have learnt, remember new things, and maintain good health and wellbeing. Another important function of sleep is that it helps children to grow – you may notice during a growth spurt your child needs more sleep and rest.

How do you feel as an adult after a restless night’s sleep? Like adults without good sleep, children will find it hard to play, learn and concentrate during the day.

Children aged between 3-5 years sleep for about 11-13 hours each night. The key to sleep and rest is firstly getting to sleep and secondly staying asleep. But the big question is, how we can help master this skill in our children?

All about bedtime routine

Children love consistency and routine. It gives them a sense of security as they can predict what will happen next, and it helps to set up good sleep habits for the future.

About one hour before bedtime you should start helping your child relax, this might involve a bath. About 20 minutes before bed you should begin the sleep routine with your child, it might involve brushing teeth, getting comfort items ready for bed, and doing a calm quiet activity together, like reading a story or listening to relaxation music.

The child’s room should be dimly lit, you might like to add a night light if your child is fearful of the dark. Try to avoid all blue light from TV, IPads and computer screens before bed as these types of light stop the body from producing melatonin, the hormone that stimulates sleep.

Make sure your child gets exposure to lots of natural light during the day – this will save the production of melatonin for night times and help regulate your child’s sleep patterns. The room temperature is also important, it needs to be not too hot and not too cold.

Other factors that can affect your child’s sleep patterns

  • Not eating enough or eating too much food before bedtime can impact sleep – feeling too full or hungry can make it hard to fall asleep and stay asleep
  • Bedwetting or needing to go to the toilet during the night
  • Nightmares and night terrors
  • Not getting enough physical activity during the day can lead to the child not being tired enough at night
  • Illness and getting back into the sleep routine once the child is well
  • Worries and anxiety – this may include a change in the child’s life – moving house, starting school

If your child has ongoing sleep problems, you may need to speak to a professional to seek support. The Northcott Early Childhood team may be able to support you.

Hope everyone has a good night sleep tonight!

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