Here are 10 ways to end the worries and help everyone sleep better.
Don’t skip the pillow talk: Sit on your child’s bed or snuggle beside them and talk about whatever is on their mind. Sometimes the listening alone will allow your child to solve their own worries.
Self-regulate his or her bedtime: Your job is to put your children to bed — not to make them go to sleep. Allow him or her to read in bed. Keep the room lights dim or off. If your child needs a reading light, buy a clip-on reading light.
No screens before bed: Avoid all digital devices for at least an hour before bed, preferably two hours.
Consider melatonin: Short term melatonin supplements can be an effective way to get a child’s sleep cycle back on track. Melatonin is a natural substance produced by our bodies that gives us an “oh so sleepy” feeling. Keeping lights dim and blocking natural light before bedtime tricks your body into natural melatonin release. There are risks and limitations to melatonin use, and you should talk to your pediatrician before using this supplement.
Teach your child to give their worries away: Teach your child to “give away” his or her worries to an inanimate object such as a stuffed animal or a doll you already own.
Routine, routine, routine: Establish a bedtime routine of bath, brushing teeth, story, etc. Find what works for your family and stick to it.
Don’t skip the story: A bedtime story can refocus your child’s mind and help them forget their worries. Reading out loud to children has been shown to improve vocabulary and be beneficial to development, and bedtime is a perfect time.
Get rid of the stimulants: Avoid caffeine and energy drinks, and beware of hidden stimulants in chocolate and second-hand smoke. Anxiety and sleeplessness are side effects of many medications, including cold medications and ADHD medications.
Regulate the fluids: Getting up in the night to use the bathroom is a common sleep disturbance. Your child might just need a reminder not to drink anything after dinner and to use the toilet before bed.
Call your pediatrician: Your pediatrician will help rule-out medical causes of sleeplessness and anxiety, including sleep apnea, allergies, snoring, medication side effects, and more. They can also provide anxiety medications and may be able to treat uncomplicated anxiety. If necessary, your pediatrician can make a referral to a sleep center for a sleep study or other tests.
For over 130 years, Children's Hospital and its Washington University School of Medicine physician partners have remained a resource for pediatric health and wellness for the St. Louis region and beyond.
They provide care in every pediatric specialty — from fetal care through adolescence. In 2017, U.S. News & World Report ranked St. Louis Children's Hospital in all 10 specialties, the only children's hospital in Missouri to earn this distinction. Their Level One Pediatric Trauma Center is nationally verified by the American College of Surgeons (ACS), the highest national recognition possible.
Call 314-454-KIDS (5437) to find a pediatrician or pediatric specialist, or to register for a class or event. Learn more at StLouisChildrens.org, member BJC Healthcare.
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