We’ve asked some experts at BC Children's Sleep Program to help answer a few common questions.
At night, the brain naturally produces melatonin, a hormone that helps you sleep. The glow from electronic screens can confuse the brain and stop that process - the blue light actually tricks the body into thinking it’s daytime.
Children and youth using these devices at night get so much stimulation, their minds keep turning, preventing them from feeling tired.
Powering down devices early in the evening will help your child wind down and enjoy a better sleep. Read more tips for managing screen time at bedtime.
Melatonin is a hormone that the body produces naturally. It helps regulate the sleep cycle. As melatonin levels rise in the evening, we feel less alert, and when they fall by morning, we know it’s time to wake up.
Melatonin supplements can reduce the amount of time it takes to fall asleep, how long someone stays asleep, and may improve daytime alertness.
It’s important to talk to your health care professional before giving your child melatonin. The correct dosage, method, and time of use must correspond to your child’s age and particular sleep problem. Other 'stronger' sleep promoting medications are only occasionally recommended for children.
Good sleep habits and a consistent bedtime routine are key to getting a good sleep.
Some parents may decide that a co-sleeping arrangement is best for their family with young children, while others choose to encourage their child to fall asleep alone.
Sometimes co-sleeping can make it difficult for parents to get a good night’s sleep or find alone time with a spouse or partner.
Some anxious children feel a sense of security by sleeping close to their parents, and may be afraid of sleeping alone at first.
If this is something your family wants to change, here are tips for helping your child sleep alone:
- Make sure your child is safe and well and leave the room
- If this is an ongoing issue, you may have to take the process very slowly. Start with sitting at the other side of the room and slowly moving farther away until you're actually outside the door.
- Avoid returning to your child's room. Alternatively, you can try to wean your child off of your support by waiting longer periods before checking on them. When checking, keep the visit to a minute or two.
- For older children, try reward charts or other positive reinforcement.
- Read these helpful hints from Anxiety Canada for helping your child sleep alone or away from home.
Note: Find recommendations here for safe sleep for babies.
If they wake at night, try to keep your child in their bed. It reduces stimulation and makes it easier for them to get back to sleep. Getting up for a snack or drink, going into a brighter room, makes their body think that it’s daytime.
At bedtime, some families try a 'free pass' idea if their child keeps getting out of bed. This is a pass/ticket that's good for one acceptable request (another hug, glass of water), that they hand over after using. It's time to settle without getting out of bed again.
When your child needs to get up earlier again when the school year starts, or after Christmas break, it’s best to prepare the whole family in advance.
Try to re-establish bedtime routines a couple of weeks ahead of time, when possible. When is your child waking up? When do they need to wake up for school? Move their bedtime and wake time earlier by 15-30 minutes each day or few days, so the shift to an earlier bedtime is gradual.
Remember to try to keep your child’s wake-up time the same every day, including on weekends, so their bodies get into a natural sleep-wake rhythm.
You can watch this 1 minute video for tips from a pediatrician at SickKids Hospital.