How to help your child get a good night of sleep

August 14, 2012 Denise Pinkney

Do you ever have trouble getting your child to sleep at night?

A good night's sleep can be a foundation for an effective day of learning. When a child is tired, he or she may have difficulty concentrating and may be restless, says Dr. Kenneth Fischer, a psychiatrist and medical director at Blue Cross Blue Shield of North Dakota. 

Child sleeping with plush toy

You can help your child get a good night's sleep.

With school starting in a few weeks, it's a good time to start working on establishing good sleep habits for your child.

Sleep experts recommend these steps to promote a good night's sleep for your child.

  • Have a consistent bedtime and bedtime routine. This will vary depending on your family and culture.
  • Bedtime and wake-up time should be roughly the same time on school and non-school nights. There should be no more than one hour difference from one night to the next.
  • Start to wind down one hour before bedtime. No rough play, screen time such as TV, computer or video games.
  • Make your child's room a media-free zone. No TV, computer or cell phone.
  • Don't send your child to bed hungry. A light snack can help a child to sleep.
  • Avoid caffeine after noon. Caffeine from soda, tea, energy drinks, coffee and chocolate can linger in the system for eight hours and interfere with sleep.
  • Have your child spend time outside each day and get daily physical activity. But avoid heavy exercise two hours before bedtime.
  • Keep your child's bedroom comfortable, calm and dark. If a night light is needed, have it below the bed, so it doesn't shine on your child.
  •  Avoid using your child's room for disciplinary purposes.
  • Keep your child's bedroom at a comfortable temperature during the night.

Depending on your child's age, he or she may resist going to bed, says Dr. Fischer. If your child yells or calls out but remains in bed, remind your child it is bedtime. 

Dr. Ken Fischer photo

Dr. Kenneth Fischer

If your child continues to call for you, check on him or her but make your visit brief and "boring." Don't engage in activities; let your physical presence be enough to assure your child that you are present. If your child leaves his or her bedroom, calmly but firmly return them.  If your child follows the bedtime routine, praise and reward your child the next day.

 "Above all, be consistent and don't give up," says Dr. Fischer