Good sleep hygiene

by Katelin Whiddon

We all want to have a good night’s sleep, and as parents, that means our children must also sleep well. I receive questions almost daily from parents about how to get their children to sleep and how to keep them asleep.

Not every child is the same, and not every routine will work for every family; however, hopefully something in this article will pertain to your family and make bedtime more enjoyable for all.

Consistency is key! This is a phrase we use a lot in Pediatrics, but it truly is helpful for bedtime. Having the same routine each night helps children follow the pattern all the way to bedtime. Choose a bedtime and stick to it — start the bedtime routine as close to the same time every night as possible.

Physical exercise during the day will help children sleep better at night. However, try to keep late evening activities calm. Bedtime is more difficult if your children have been engaged in high stimulation activities recently. And obviously, avoid caffeine and sugar in afternoons and evenings.

A bed should be used primarily for sleeping. Discourage your children from playing, reading, studying, etc. in their bed as it will cause their brain to associate bed with other things, making sleep more difficult to initiate. In addition, it is best to not have television, video games, etc. in a child’s room. If you have a baby, try to get the baby out of your bedroom as soon as possible. I understand wanting to keep the child nearby for feeding, and for our own comfort, but having a baby in your room for an extended time leads to poor sleep for both parents and the baby.

Co-sleeping is NEVER OK. This is probably one of the most dangerous things you can do with your baby. Small infants are not able to roll over on their own if their face becomes covered. The risk is too large of having a pillow, blanket or even an adult roll over and suffocate the baby. If you take anything from this article, please let it be to NEVER co-sleep with a baby!

For small children, a security item, such as a doll, blanket or toy, may be helpful to calm them down and make them feel safe when their parents are not in the room. As long as the child is old enough that the item does not pose a suffocation risk, this can be very helpful.

Like I mentioned earlier, I always stress consistency to parents. When you decide to follow a new routine and to enforce new rules, always stick to them. Once a child, no matter what age, sees you give in to what they want, it becomes even harder to reel them back in.

If you are dealing with a difficult bedtime, I wish you all the best of luck as you try to apply some of the above. Sweet dreams and go get some shut eye, 501!


A native of Conway, Katelin Whiddon is a family nurse practitioner at Central Arkansas Pediatrics. She and her husband, Daniel, have two daughters. A graduate of the University of Central Arkansas, she has her bachelor’s and master’s degrees.