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5 Easy Ways to Help Your Child Sleep When They're Learning from Home
It's hard when Your house becomes a classroom, office, and more. Here are some tips to help your child adjust and sleep better.
If you’re one of the many families with children in a distance learning program (we are too!), you know that it’s easy to lose sight of bedtime and routines. Here are some tips to get back to a sense of normal.
Why Your Child's Sleep Matters
There’s no question that good sleep is important for everyone, and this is doubly true for children. The American Academy of Pediatrics found that good sleep on a regular basis “improved attention, behavior, learning, memory, emotional regulation, quality of life, and mental and physical health.” On the flip side, bad sleep is associated with a range of problems, including unhealthy weight gain, more injuries, and depression.
This is even more true for kids trying to adjust to restrictions on where they can go, how many friends they can see, and how to focus when they’re learning through a computer screen. It’s really hard, and it makes good rest all the more important.
So how much sleep is good sleep? It depends on your child’s age.
For kids between 6 and 12 years old, 9 to 12 hours is a good range, and for teenagers, 8 to 10 hours is fine. (Younger children need to sleep even longer, with babies clocking in at a whopping 12 to 16 hours per day – though this also includes their nap times).
So how do you hit these sleep numbers consistently? It may seem challenging at first, especially if your child has had trouble sleeping, but it mostly comes down to routine, environment, and timing.
Make An Amazing Bedtime Routine
A huge part of getting a good night’s rest is doing the same things at the same time every night (or close to it). This sounds simple, but when you add in homework, after school activities, games, sleepovers, and more, it’s easy to let your nighttime routine feel like the last priority.
To help take charge of your evenings, write a plan, make a list, and get the whole family involved:
- Make a weekly schedule (and put it somewhere everybody can see it) – get to know your busy nights and get an overview of your week. Most importantly, write in bedtimes on your schedule. Take the guesswork out and pre-plan a bedtime for every night, in advance. Check out these easy fridge charts to get started.
- Stick to your bedtime on the weekends – This one may not be the most fun, but it makes a big difference short term and in building lifelong sleep habits. Of course, every rule needs an exception, which brings us to:
- Pre-plan your late nights – things come up, sleepovers happen, and sometimes having a late night is just fun. Budget for an exception to the sleep rules in advance and let your child pick a night to stay up past their bedtime. This way they still know when to expect a later night and when the routine is in effect.
Build a Better Bedroom
Environment is another huge part of sleep and a few small changes can make a big difference in how much your child is awake at night. To help create the ultimate relaxation space and encourage longer, better sleep:
- Control the amount of light in the room – light is one of the biggest triggers that keeps us awake and gets us up in the morning. Using blackout curtains and a sunrise alarm clock lets you choose when morning starts while still waking kids up gradually and naturally.
- Turn off electronics at least 30 minutes before bed – two hours is even better, but shutting off the cell phones, TVs and game consoles at least half an hour before bedtime will make a big difference (and if you’re worried you’ll forget, this app controlled plug will do it for you).
- Keep it cool – kids sleep best at about 65 to 70 degrees, and cooling down their bedroom will encourage a faster time to doze off. Grab a cooling blanket and fan if you need an extra boost in summer!
The bed you use can also make a big difference. Getting a better mattress (even on a cheaper kid’s frame) can help your child sleep longer and wake up feeling better after school sports, seasonal athletics, and more:
- Get a full size mattress instead of a kid’s bed – they’re cheap, they’ll last longer, and it’s a bed they can take to college. You can get a super highly rated memory foam mattress for less than $200, so it’s better quality for around the same price.
- Keep the actual bed for sleeping only – this is a big deal for adults and kids. The less reading, homework, and other active activities they do in bed, the more lying down will help put them to sleep. With the million different kid’s desks out there, there’s something that fits in pretty much every room setup.
Setup a Pre-Sleep Plan
One of the benefits of creating a bedtime schedule is learning what keeps your child awake and what helps them sleep at night. Do they doze off quickly after soccer but stay up late after watching a movie? Switch things around on home nights and do earlier family time with a bit of exercise after. Same for kids who need some quiet time before bed – plan the active stuff early on so they can decompress before trying to sleep.
Understanding what works best for your child isn’t just great for their younger years. It’s a lesson they can take with them through college, work, and more as a foundation for healthier habits and better stress management.
A Note on Sleep Supplements for Children
Are sleep supplements like melatonin safe for kids?
Melatonin can look like an awesome solution for kids who can’t doze off, but it’s not a long-term fix. First off, melatonin is categorized as a supplement, not a drug, so it’s not required to go through long term safety studies and it can be sold without a standardized dose for kids (and the doses are very different from brand to brand). If you’re considering melatonin for your child, you should always talk to your pediatrician first to see what dosage they recommend and how long they would recommend using it safely (see more in our full article).
Also, it’s not a magic solution. It works by signaling the brain that it’s time for sleep, but it’s only really useful if it “kicks in” when someone should be sleeping anyway – it’s most effective when used with a nighttime routine and given a few hours before bed. This makes it a tool to help get your child on a good sleep schedule, not as a substitute.
Long term, the best sleep solution is consistency, a relaxing sleep environment, and learning what pre-bedtime routine works best for your child as an individual.