Preventing Sleep Disorders in Children

Many sleep problems in children and adolescents are the result of poor sleep hygiene, which is a pattern of behavior that makes it difficult for a child to fall asleep on his or her own. Over time, poor sleep habits can become difficult to change.

The sleep specialists at Hassenfeld Children’s Hospital at NYU Langone recommend following a few basic strategies during infancy and early childhood that can help to create a relaxing sleep environment for your child. These good habits can eliminate excess stimulation and reinforce your child’s positive thoughts about sleep:

  • Establish a regular bedtime routine for your child, so that he or she goes to sleep and wakes up at a similar time every day.
  • Put your child to sleep in a room that is dark, quiet, and cool.
  • Keep electronic devices, such as digital screens and televisions, out of your child’s bedroom.
  • Avoid allowing younger children to consume caffeine and limit it in teenagers, especially in the afternoon and evening. The effects of caffeine can take as long as eight to 10 hours to wear off.
  • Encourage your child to be physically active in the earlier part of each day, when he or she can be exposed to natural light that can help to reinforce normal sleep-wake patterns.
  • Avoid sending your child to his or her room for time-outs or punishment, so that he or she doesn’t associate the room with something unpleasant.
  • Eliminate or shorten daily naps to encourage your child to fall asleep earlier at night.
  • Use soothing music or other calming devices to ease any nighttime fears your child may have.

Following these strategies can help to prevent problematic sleep patterns, even in children with underlying medical conditions that can interfere with sleep.