Does Your Child Have Trouble Sleeping? Here Are 5 Ways to Help Them

Sometimes, bedtime can be as challenging for kids as it is for their parents and caregivers. Whether it’s due to sleeping disorders, conditions like ADHD and anxiety, or general restlessness, the goal of falling asleep at a specific time can seem out of reach for many children. While doctors can help determine and treat underlying causes of sleep troubles, parents can do a lot to help their kids get the recommended amount of sleep every night.

1. Routines

Routines are first on the list for a reason. Establishing consistent bedtime and wake-up times is critical in training your child’s biological clock to become sleepy at the same time every night. Additionally, nighttime routines are comforting patterns for your kids. They help ease stress and calm the mind and body.

Night routines don’t have to look the same for everyone. Do what works for you and your family. Start as early as possible to make room for bedtime procrastination. Run through hygienic activities in the same order: putting on pajamas, brushing their teeth, the last call for using the toilet, etc. Let your child have some input on the winding down activities you do before bed, trying to steer clear of screen time.

2. Limit the Screens

Your child’s favorite movies and TV shows may help them physically relax, but the blue light from screens stimulates the brain, making it harder to fall asleep. Try setting a cut-off time for screen activity, preferably one to two hours before bed. 

Opt for other soothing activities that promote development and creativity. You might read together, which improves children’s vocabulary and communication skills. You can also work on arts and crafts by drawing, painting, playing instruments, or making jewelry. Board games and puzzles can be fun, tactile activities that improve problem-solving. Sensory activities such as playing with kinetic sand and building lego structures can comfort your child and get them into sleep mode.

Intense physical activities might seem like good options for burning off steam, but exercise increases cortisol levels, making your kids feel wound up and fully awake. They’re best for before the relaxing nighttime routine.

3. Eat the Right Stuff

Eating foods rich in sugars and carbohydrates can give your kids an energy boost, and some of them, like fruits, aren’t filling for long. These foods are better suited for early-in-the-day meals and snacks. Dinners full of protein and vegetables will keep your kids from getting hungry before bed and won’t lead to energy surges. Avoiding too much fluid after dinner can also mitigate potty breaks during the night and bedwetting. 

Some children might have trouble falling asleep due to food allergies or sensitivities. If you suspect this might be the case for your child, consider keeping a daily food journal, noting if there are any items associated with poorer sleep. 

4. Make Room for Your Child’s Preferences

When creating a soothing environment for your child to sleep in, consider what elements work for them. They might do well with weighted blankets, stuffed animals, or being tucked in tight. Some might find the rhythmic movement of a lava lamp comforting or prefer instrumental music over white noise. You can also include a diffuser or use a sleep patch to relax your child with scents like lavender, sweet marjoram, and mandarin. 

No one can force a child to fall asleep, but you can reward them for staying in bed. Figure out what types of reward systems work for your child. Maybe you invent stories with characters who leave gifts or set up a sticker chart in your child’s room. 

Self-regulation gives your children a comforting sense of autonomy. If they struggle to fall asleep, you might allow them to read in bed. By sticking to the scheduled wake-up time, their bodies should adjust to allow them to receive the rest they need. Focusing more on laying down than falling asleep can reduce your children’s stress around bedtime.

5. Address Concerns and Fears

Often, fear is one of the driving forces of sleep issues. Many children will express their fears as they settle down for bed. Shutting down their concerns will do little to help them relax and process their emotions. However, it’s also true that kids may use these late-night talks to avoid being left alone to sleep. Try asking them about their worries and fears earlier in the day, being receptive to whatever they have to tell you. Once bedtime rolls around, you can set a time limit on how long you’ll sit with them. 

In these discussions, you might be able to decrease their stress and discover the roots of their sleeplessness, helping you develop personalized solutions. 


Bedtime can be challenging for the entire household, but with consistent routines, calming activities, and personalized solutions, everyone can get better sleep.

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