Nearly all parents and caregivers have run into challenges as bedtime approaches. Even when children are exhausted, they can have a hard time falling and staying asleep. These challenges may arise from sleeping disorders or apnea and require a doctor’s consultation. However, there are numerous natural sleep remedies for you and the children in your care.
One of the most effective ways to promote better sleep over time is becoming consistent in your bed- and wake-up times. By laying down at the same time every night, you train your biological clock, causing you to become tired when you need to be. The same is true for kids. However, this is easier said than done. What do you do when your child’s bedtime is fast approaching, but their minds won’t stop racing, or they have a burst of energy? It’s not just the time they try to fall asleep that matters; calming nighttime routines promote physical and mental relaxation that improves sleep duration and quality.
Preparing for bed can start at the beginning of the day. To help alleviate pent-up energy, encourage fun, daily exercise for your children, avoiding any strenuous activities in the last few hours before bed.
Consistent nighttime routines reduce stress and give children a comforting sense of familiarity. You can run through all of the hygienic practices with your children in the same order: putting on pajamas, taking a bath, brushing their teeth, etc. You might run through some simple breathing techniques to engage the parasympathetic nervous system if your kids are feeling anxious or restless. For quality time and encouraging creativity, you can read together or journal.
While watching movies or playing video games seem good ways to wind down, the blue light from screens disrupts sleeping patterns. Blue light suppresses melatonin and stimulates the brain rather than calming it. You can improve the sleeping habits of your entire household by implementing a screen curfew. By a set time (preferably one to two hours before bed), turn all the screens off in the house. If you’re not watching TV before bed, your child won’t feel like they’re missing out on anything when you turn off Disney+.
As mentioned above, you can opt for reading books rather than watching movies before bed to entertain yourselves without sacrificing sleep. You can also work on art projects or puzzles, whatever works for your kids.
Where your child falls asleep matters as much as their bedtime routines. Everyone’s sleep arrangements are different. Your child might be sleeping in the same room as you, have their own space, or share a room with siblings. In any case, you should make the room as comfortable as possible. Try to keep it cool. It’s easier to fall asleep when a room is airy rather than stuffy and hot. Keeping the room as dark as possible also encourages relaxation. Just as the blue light from screens stimulates the brain, bright indoor lights interrupt circadian rhythms. Small nightlights can help soothe children who fear the dark without compromising sleep.
Pay attention to the noises in your space. Unexpected and irregular noises can keep the body in a state of anticipation and arousal. You might try setting up a white noise machine or playing calming, instrumental music to see what your child prefers.
You can also incorporate essential oils and supplements like melatonin into your kids’ night routines to help them sleep soundly through the night.
Many companies now design delicious-tasting gummies with small doses of melatonin specifically for children. Our bodies make melatonin naturally, increasing the amount produced as night approaches. Consuming extra melatonin about an hour before bedtime can help children become sleepier. Melatonin supplements come with few, if any, side effects. Children may feel tiredness or dizziness after they wake up.
Essential oils can act as all-natural sleep aids with no known side effects (when used correctly). Their smell impacts the amygdala, promoting the secretion of serotonin and dopamine, which is key to producing melatonin. You can diffuse essential oils or apply them directly to the skin when diluted with a carrier oil. Some, like peppermint, are safe to ingest. There’s also the unique and fun option of putting stickers infused with essential oils on your kids’ pajamas or bed frames. Common essential oils for relaxation and better sleep include lavender, jasmine, sweet marjoram, sandalwood, and eucalyptus.
Adding the soothing scent of essential oils to your kids’ bedtime routines can lower heart rate and reduce anxiety. Those with anti-inflammatory properties can also clear sinuses and airways, helping your kids fall asleep, even during the cold season.
Establishing nighttime routines for your children might take some trial and error, but there are numerous natural sleep remedies to help them fall asleep quickly and rest well.