Helping Your Child Get a Good Night's Sleep

How important is it for your child to get a good night's rest? Doctors agree that a lack of sleep particularly for children affects their development and growth.

"There is no doubt that getting adequate sleep makes a difference in the child's ability to function during the day. Insufficient sleep contributes to daytime problems of mood, attitude and cognitive ability," says Dr. Gary Zammit, Ph. D., President of Clinilabs/Sleep Disorder Clinics, New York City.

Dr. Ron Perkins, of the Brody School of Medicine in Greenville, NC, also concludes that sleep deprivation can cause ineffective work habits and an inability to concentrate symptoms that are often misdiagnosed as ADHD. Helping your child to focus might be as simple as creating a calm, soothing environment, setting a few limits and establishing some basic nighttime rules.

Set the Scene: Lighting

While both outside noise and temperature may disturb a child's sleep, says Dr. Gary Zammit, "the main factor is exposure to bright or unnatural light."

  • Remove the television, phones, electronic games and computers. These items can cause nightmares and disturb sound sleep with unnatural lighting.
  • Add blinds or shades to the windows to shut out noise and outside lights. Open them in the morning for a gentle wake-up.
  • Use a night light only when dealing with fears.


  • Provide a firm, clean mattress and pillow which can help preserve a healthy back and allow your child to sleep comfortably.
  • Cover the bed with comfortable, warm, yet lightweight bedding.
  • Keep the bedroom clean and peacefully arranged. The bed should be cleared of dolls, stuffed animals, books, toys, junk and litter.
  • Never allow pets on the bed.
  • Provide "white noise," like a fan, to block out house, neighborhood and traffic noises.
  • Keep the temperature cool, if possible. Children sleep best in a colder room.

Set Priorities

Dr. Glenna Winnie, of the Children's Hospital in Pittsburg, PA, believes our society undervalues sleep and, as a result, our children are chronically sleep deprived. If your child needs to catch a few extra winks, structure her day with a good night's rest in mind.

  • Make adequate sleep more important than school outings, homework, visits with friends and television shows.
  • Schedule naps after school for younger children and quiet rest periods for older kids.

Set Limits

If little Johnny or Sue is spooked and skittish at bedtime, it's time to reexamine the boundaries you've set.

  • Cut back on food and drinks containing excessive sugars, food colorings or caffeine.
  • Set a limit on bedtime reading.
  • Avoid rough-housing at bedtime.

Set Patterns

Children thrive on schedule and routine. According to Dr. Gary Freed D.O., Children's Healthcare in Atlanta, GA, oversleeping can upset natural wake/sleep patterns.

  • Establish bedtime routines for bathing and tooth brushing.
  • Stick to customary bed times and wake-up times, even on the weekends.
  • Tell stories, read and pray with your children. These are soothing nighttime habits.
  • Quiet your child with soft music.

Set a Good Example

You can help your child get the rest he needs by setting an example of healthy sleeping habits yourself.

  • Go to bed and rise at set times.
  • Don't sleep late to reward yourself.
  • Keep activities quiet at bedtime.
  • Get rid of sleep distractions in your bedroom.

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