The amount and quality of sleep an individual receives each night is the foundation for their participation in daily occupations. For children, their sleep is essential to their wellbeing and growth but their ability to sleep well affects the entire family too. When children have difficulty with sleep, the balance of the family can be thrown off center because parents’ have increased stress and impacted sleep cycles as well. The addition of environmental modifications and changing bedtime routines can help assist with sleep management for a child and provide overall outcomes for the entire family.
Small changes to routines prior to bedtime can help children fall asleep faster and stay asleep longer. Adding these changes gradually allows for parents to measure which works best for their child and personalize adjustments as needed.
1. Water Intake
An hour prior to bedtime, limit water intake to help with potty breaks during the night. Reducing water can help prevent bedwetting and toileting that disrupts a continuous night of sleep.
2. Reduce Screen Time
Blue light is emitted through use of tablet/TV/phone screens and affects the production of melatonin, the hormone responsible for the sleep-wake cycle. Limiting screen time an hour before bed reduces exposure to blue light and increases the likelihood of falling asleep faster.
3. Sensory Input
To help expend energy before bedtime, incorporate animal walks to get to the bathroom for bathtime or toothbrushing. The animal walks will help provide proprioceptive input and get the wiggles out before bed. Another way to help with sensory input is completing kid yoga poses or having a yoga ball gently rolled over the child’s body.
Changing the bedroom environment based on a child’s needs can help facilitate easier transitions to bed and allow for better sleep. Simple additions to their bedroom may add comfort and assist with adhering to bedtime routines.
1. Lighting Changes
Changing the lighting in the room can help with shifting to bedtime when a child is having a harder time transitioning. For children who are more light sensitive, the addition of blackout curtains can help shut out all light that can prevent sleep. For children who show fear of the dark, providing a night light and having a routine under the bed/in the closet check each night can help validate their concerns and reduce behaviors at bedtime.
A white noise machine can provide background noise that helps lull children to sleep. White noise can be accessible through many apps, oftentimes free, and have timers to automatically shut off following bedtime.
3. Deep Pressure
For children seeking pressure, a weighted blanket or weighted pillows can go a long way during bedtime. Pregnancy pillows can also provide the support they seek and create safe barriers in bed for those that kick and roll.
Be aware of fabric sensitivities that a child may have and check PJs, blankets and pillowcases. Sensitivities to certain clothes during the daytime can play a large factor in bedtime as well. Fabric preferences may create an unnecessary barrier to sleep management but can be easily fixed!
1. American Occupational Therapy Association [AOTA]. (2013). Bedtime Routine Tip Sheet. Retrieved July 24, 2021 from https://www.aota.org/-/media/Corporate/Files/AboutOT/consumers/Youth/BedroomRoutineTipSheet.pdf
2. AOTA. (2021). Occupational Therapy’s Role in Sleep. Retrieved July 24, 2021 from https://www.aota.org/about-occupational-therapy/professionals/hw/sleep.aspx
3. Gronski, M. & Doherty, M. (2020). Interventions Within the Scope of Occupational Therapy Practice to Improve Activities of Daily Living, Rest, and Sleep for Children Ages 0-5 Years and Their Families: A Systematic Review. American Journal of Occupational Therapy, 74(2). https://doi.org/10.5014/ajot.2020.039545
4. Sleep Foundation. (2020). Can Electronics Affect Quality Sleep? Retrieved July 24, 2021 from https://www.sleepfoundation.org/how-sleep-works/how-electronics-affect-sleep