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Improve your sleep, improve your mental health: 8 steps to better sleep for your family

Child sleeping in bed.

Getting more sleep—for you and your child—is a goal many parents dream of. After all, sleep has a significant impact on our mental and physical health 

In fact, there is a two-way relationship between sleep and many types of mental health conditions, such as depression, anxiety and eating disorders. People with mental health issues are much more likely to also have difficulty sleeping. On the flip side, improving sleep quality can also help improve mental health and increase our ability to cope with challenging situations. 

A few simple tweaks to your child’s routine and sleep environment can help everyone get a better night’s rest. 

  1. Have a busy day. Check! Already done, right? But try to make sure your whole family is getting outside and staying active through exercise and play in addition to your other commitments. 

  1. Switch off screens before bed. Avoiding electronic screens for at least an hour before bedtime helps us transition to sleep more easily. Turning off tablets and phones in the evening not only reduces light exposure, but also helps kids disconnect from any emotional drama that’s going on with friends and peers. Sound dauntingThen consider starting with a “no screens in bed” rule and work toward avoiding screens 30-60 minutes before bed.   

  1. Decrease or eliminate screens in the bedroom. Research indicates that on average, the more screens present in the bedroom, the less sleep a child gets. Consider collecting portable screens like tablets or smartphones at bedtime, and charging them in a common area (kitchen, living room, etc.) overnight. Do you have a little one with no screens in the bedroom yet? WonderfulImplementing this rule now will make it easier to continue as they get older. 

  1. Build a relaxing routine. Baths and books aren’t just for little kids! Whether it’s bedtime yoga, a warm shower or listening to music, having a calming, regular evening routine is a great way to settle down for sleep at any age. 

  1. Make it dark. Our brains are trained to switch into sleep mode when it’s dark. Use window coverings like blackout curtains or child-safe blinds to create a dark room, even when it stays light outside late into the evening 

  1. Keep it (mostly) quiet. You might find that your child sleeps better with a little background noise. Soft, consistent sounds like white noise, instrumental music or even just a fan can have a calming effect on your child.  

  1. Stay cool. For most people, the ideal sleeping temperature is cooler than what we’d consider “room temperature” during the day. However, the most important thing is to avoid extreme heat or cold in your child’s bedroom and provide seasonally-appropriate clothing and covers 

  1. Check for comfort. When was the last time you slept in your child’s bed? If it was last night, you’re definitely not alone! But if it’s been awhile, check to be sure your child’s mattress is comfortable and big enough for their growing body.  

Over time, these small changes can make a big difference in sleep quality and quantity for your family. And improved sleep, together with other types of treatment, can help improve your child’s mental and emotional health. 

Child Psychology

Associate Professor of Pediatrics, University of Missouri-Kansas City School of Medicine