9 Sleep Hygiene Recommendations for Children

Sleep is an important component for health and well being, both for children and adults. According to the Occupational Therapy Practice: Framework: Domain & Process, sleep and rest are considered activities of daily living. Activities of daily living (also known as ADLs) are the activities you participate in everyday. They may consist of bathing, getting dressed, and going to work or school.Sleep helps children participate in daily routines of play, school, and other areas of development. If your child is having difficulty with sleep, here is a list of environmental modifications and recommendations to help ease the routine of sleep for your family.

  1. Structure bedtime and sleep schedule. Maintain a consistent schedule of what time your child goes to bed. This should consistently happen both weeknights and weekends.

  2. Keep your child’s bedroom cool and quiet.

  3. Consider the lighting in your child’s room. Some lighting may be more stimulating than others. Lighting may come from nightlights, table lamps, overhead lighting, fish tanks, toys, etc. Consider all of these when creating a dimly lit space for your child before bedtime. If your child is fearful of the dark, consider a night light with a neutral or calming color (blue, gray, or white).

  4. Follow a bedtime routine. This may include a sequence of activities such as bath time, putting on pajamas, brushing teeth, and reading a story. Maintain this routine each night.

  5. Avoid screen time before bed. Choose short stories or other low stimulation and activities and incorporate that into your expected routine. Studies have shown that the blue light from devices (e.g. tablet or smartphone) impacts the levels of a sleep-producing hormone, known as melatonin.

  6. Discontinue physical activity at least an hour and a half preceding bedtime. If your child follows a sensory diet of movement and other sensory input during the day, choose these activities for earlier in the day or afternoon. This includes stimulating activities such as rough housing and/or tickling, which can awaken the nervous system and make it more difficult to settle down to sleep.

  7. If your child is having difficulty sleeping in their own room, slowly transition the child from their preferred sleep space and into their own bed. This can be done by placing a sleeping bag or cot in the space (e.g. your own bedroom, sibling’s space, other living area), and gradually moving this area until it closer to their own bed. A favored stuffed animal or toy can be helpful as a security object during this transition.

  8. Consider diet and demands of the day if your child seems more or less tired at bedtime. Consuming foods at dinner time that are rich in magnesium (e.g. banana), tryptophan (an amino acid found in dairy products, beans, spinach, and chicken/turkey), and/or whole grains, promote healthy sleep patterns.

  9. Always discuss sleep concerns with your child’s pediatrician.

Blog post by Katie Woolard, MS, OTR/L


AOTA Fact Sheet: Occupational Therapy’s Role in Sleep http://www.aota.org/about-occupational-therapy/professionals/hw/sleep.aspx

Seattle Children’s Hospital Sleep Disorder Resources

10 Foods to Help Children Fall (and Stay) Asleep

Q&A: Why is Blue Light Bad Before Bedtime Bad for Sleep?