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How to Help Your Kid Get a Good Night’s Sleep

(You won’t believe what works)

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A new study suggests you may be the key to your child getting enough rest—in ways that you couldn’t have imagined. Here’s what you need to know.
Making sure your child gets enough shut-eye at night is a near-constant parenting worry. And while you know your kid needs a good night’s rest for overall health and optimal learning, making that happen can be overwhelming.

Luckily, there’s word of a solution. The fix may simply be a matter of confidence (yours)—and modeling your own sound sleep behavior. According to a new study published in the Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine, the extent to which children sleep may be related to how self-assured parents are in their ability to tuck kids in at night. In fact, your kids could gain as much as 40 extra minutes of sleep, based on your confidence alone!

The report, which studied nearly 800 parents of children 6 to 12 years old, also found that the length of time kids spent asleep was associated with the duration that parents were in bed. The longer the parents slept, the longer the kids did, as well. And even though experts considered habits that could possibly impact rest, including screen time, exercise, and TV watching, they still determined that parents’ sleep is directly linked to kids’, regardless of these activities. 

Bottom line? Safeguarding your own sleep as well as learning how to help your kid get the right amount works when everyone in your house settles down and drifts off on time. Modeling good bedtime habits and talking positively about sleep and its importance could be the difference between having a weary or wide-eyed child.

Be smart about your own sleep needs!

This means you should head to bed at the same (reasonable) hour each night and follow a set routine (relax and read quietly; skip caffeine, alcohol, and big meals close to bedtime; and release that iron grip on your phone). And then check out the following five ways to make sure your child is prepped for bed—and stays asleep throughout the night.

Count the hours.

School-age children (6 to 12 years) need 9 to 12 hours of sleep a night, according to the American Academy of Sleep Medicine. Without it, kids can become irritable and hyperactive and they may experience difficulty in school when it comes to paying attention and learning. If your child isn’t getting the hours he needs, set his bedtime 15 minutes earlier each night until he’s tucking in at the right time.

Smooth the routine.

T-ball practice, band rehearsal, and other extracurricular activities can lengthen the day, making it hard to slow down and get ready for bed. If your child seems over-scheduled, consider cutting back so she isn’t too frenzied. Strive to make her pre-bed routine a quiet one that includes homework, free reading, and a quick shower.

Bring on darkness.

When the sun sets, our bodies are signaled that it’s time to rest. No matter what time of year it is (but especially at daylight saving time), do what you can to make sure your child’s room is dark. Blackout shades or curtains are ideal. If necessary, you can always add a small night-light or allow a bit of light from the hallway for a visit to the bathroom.

Power down devices.

It’s not just the stimulation from texts or apps that can keep kids awake—it’s also the pesky blue light. This powerful ultraviolet glow can interfere with the body’s ability to produce melatonin, which is an important hormone related to sleep. Make a house rule that all devices are turned off at least one hour before bedtime and charged in a spot away from the bedroom (the kitchen is perfect for this).

Offer a snack.

A light bite an hour before bedtime can fix a rumbling tummy and send your child off to dreamland quickly. Choose foods rich in carbs, as they may increase the level of sleep-friendly tryptophan in the bloodstream. Good picks include a small bowl of cereal, a slice of toast with peanut butter, or some cheese and crackers. But watch out for caffeine, which can be found in chocolate, energy drinks, coffee ice cream, and coffee-flavored yogurt.