Establishing Healthy Sleep Habits

February 12, 2018

Sleep is essential for growth and development, as well as overall health. High quality sleep ensures that children are ready to play and participate in everyday activities at home and school. For some children, it can be difficult to fall asleep and stay asleep.

Establishing a consistent and healthy bedtime routine will enable better quality sleep for both the child and parent. It is important to try to put your child at a consistent time, including on weekends. In addition, create a regular and predictable sequence of events to prepare for sleep about a half hour before bed; ideas to include in this routine are listed at the bottom of this page. You can also verbally prepare your child for bed, such as with the statement, “First we eat dinner, then we will play, followed by reading a book and going to bed.” Have your child put a stuffed animal or doll to bed to include them in their bedtime routine.

It is also important to ensure your child is comfortable for bed time. For children who are afraid of the dark, make it a habit to check closets or under the bed, and use a night light. Consider the temperature of the room (cool is better), the fabric of the child’s pajamas and blankets, nearby smells, or noises outside of their room. Sound machines, soft music, or a fan can help drown out extraneous noises. Sleeping under tight-fitted sheets and/or heavy blankets can also promote relaxation to one’s body.

For some children, there may be other factors to consider that may be interfering with sleep, such as diet and screen time. Poor diet in general negatively impacts sleep. Additionally, foods consumed before bedtime have an effect on the chemicals that help regulate sleep. Avoid fatty foods, chocolate, caffeine, spicy foods, and foods high in sugar before bed. Instead, have your child eat foods such as fruit, vegetables, whole grain cereal, popcorn, yogurt, or almonds, as these can improve sleep. Screen time before bed is another important factor to consider when establishing a healthy sleep routine. It is generally recommended that children do not use screens (this includes television, video games, iPads, computers, and cell phones) 1-2 hours before bed. Exposure to the blue light emitted by these devices has been found to increase levels of arousal, therefore resulting in difficulty falling and staying asleep. In addition, the use of electronic devices prior to sleep often leads to delays in bed times, resulting in less sleep overall.

Since sleep is an “occupation,” it is an area that occupational therapists can help address. OTs can help determine what factors are inhibiting your child’s sleep, and make suggestions for healthy bedtime routine activities. Listed below are some relaxing activities that may be beneficial to aid in your child’s sleep.

Bedtime Routine Activities to Promote High Quality Sleep:

Back rubs
Warm bath or shower
Diffusing calming essential oils like lavender and bergamot
Listening to audiobooks
Listening to calming music
Deep breathing
Relaxing yoga poses (e.g., child’s pose, baby pose, cat/cow pose)
Progressive relaxation (close your eyes, slowly tighten and then relax each body part, starting at the toes)


Cat-Cow Pose

Cat-Cow Pose




Child's Pose

185 S. Marley Rd. New Lenox, IL 60451