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Independent Living Skills

Bedtime and sleep routine

Why don’t children sleep?    

There are many reasons why children may not sleep. This can be because the room is too hot, cold, dark or light or if there are external noises from elsewhere in the house or outside the house. Consider what may be the trigger for a sleepless night. 

Ideas to Help 

The bedroom environment may be too noisy or too light. A light room in summer time may make it more difficult for the child to settle. Is the temperature too low or too high for the child? Is the bedroom too dark? Do you keep the door open or shut at night? Does the child feel secure or do they have fears such as being frightened of the dark?  

What programmes have they watched before bed? Are they too stimulating for them? Are they waking up because of this? Too stimulating a programme on TV or a computer game too close to bedtime may result in the child not being able to sleep for several hours after this time. 

Is the child a bed-wetter?  

Do they have asthma which causes them to cough through the night and need to have this treated?  

Have they got an illness at the moment that is making them feel uncomfortable? 

Are they used to getting up and coming in to your room every night? 

Is the bed comfortable? Is the mattress an old one? Often children have beds that are passed on – this may be why they are not sleeping. Is you child allergic to the pillows or duvet? Have you noticed that they sneeze a lot at night, or cough or have a runny nose?  

Does the child itch or have a rash – bed bugs may be a problem or they could be allergic to the bedding. 

Do they feel insecure and are worried about falling out, such as in a bunk bed or cabin bed, and need a bed guard still? 

 Do you have a good bedtime routine each night so the child knows what to expect and has time to wind down?

Try to keep bedtime to roughly around the same time every night so the child knows what to expect and learns when to wind down and get ready for bed.

They may need time to settle and should be allowed to read or play quietly in bed until they feel drowsy.

They may need a favourite toy to take to bed with them.

They may need a night light or some gentle music to settle them to bed. By doing the same every night the child will feel more secure.

Place a clock by their bed so they can see when they need to go to sleep or get up in the morning.

Has the child any worries over school or with friends they need to discuss before bed? This is better done earlier in the evening so they don’t lie in bed worrying over problems.

Increase the child’s physical activity late afternoon so they are physically tired.

Don’t let them eat too much just before bed.

A massage with a carrier oil (this can be sunflower oil), with some lavender oil drops in it, may help relax the child before bed. Massage firmly. A sleeping bag instead of a duvet may make them feel more secure. Try blankets instead of a duvet and place their bed against the wall. You can even sandwich them in with pillows if this makes them feel more secure.

Change takes time and means you have to be consistent with the child. You may need to take them back to bed a dozen times the first night – but slow progress is better than no progress!