10 Tips for Promoting Positive Sleep for Your Child & Family

  1. Establish Consistent Bedtime Routines
  • Have consistent bedtime routines for your child.
  • This includes setting a regular time to go to bed and wake up each morning for your child and keeping this time consistent on weekdays and weekends as this helps to set the sleep-wake cycle.
  • Ensure your child is having developmentally appropriate amount of sleep. If a child goes to sleep too early and does not need as much sleep they will wake up earlier. It may be necessary to adjust sleep and wake times accordingly to account for this.
  • Routine is significantly important to promoting positive sleep patterns and practices for your child and family.

2. Keep the Hour Before Bedtime Relaxing

  • Encourage your child to engage in quieter activities for the hour before their bedtime which are less stimulating and more relaxing. These activities can be with or without parental attention and involvement.
  • Too much activity before bedtime can cause the child to feel overstimulated, over aroused and this can result in keeping them awake for longer.
  • It is especially important to focus on calming activities for 30 minutes before bedtime with the last part occurring in the child’s bed.
  • These activities can include having a bath, massage, reading a book, picture stories, listening to music, pretend play, songs, nursery rhymes, putting animals or toys to bed, playing a quiet game, prayers etc.

3. Sleeping Environment

  • Consider your child’s sleeping environment and ensure your child’s sleeping environment is safe and soothing.
  • Optimal sleep is achieved when your child is in a comfortable bed, temperature is warm-to slightly cooler to allow regulation of body temperature, reduced noise level and making the room as dark as possible with the use of a night light if required.

4. How your Child is Falling Asleep

  • How a child falls asleep at night is often how they will need to fall back asleep if they wake up during the night.
  • Children who fall asleep without parental assistance are less likely to require their parents / caregivers when they wake at night and are more likely to be able to settle themselves and self-soothe back to sleep.
  • Aim for your child to go to bed sleepy but awake, so they can fall asleep relatively quickly by themselves in the same place where they will sleep all night. It should take children around 15-30 minutes to fall asleep at night.

5. Food Consumption before Bedtime

  • It is recommended to avoid consumption of large meals close to bedtime to promote positive sleep practices.
  • A small healthy snack before bedtime can improve sleep and ability to settle to sleep for children.
  • Avoid foods with caffeine such as chocolate for at least 4-6 hours before bedtime.
  • Having a well-balanced adequate diet also positively impacts on sleep patterns.

6. Physical Activity & Exercise Throughout the Day

  • Time spent completing physical activity, exercise or time spent outside throughout the day also positively impacts on your child’s ability to fall asleep and their overall sleep at night.
  • It is recommended that your child spends time outside, moving and exercising throughout the day to positively improve their sleep.

7. Day Time Naps

  • Daytime naps are essential for younger children depending on their age and developmental stage.
  • Extended day time naps, additional naps or naps in the late afternoon can result in your child sleeping less at night.
  • It is important to limit day time naps to developmentally appropriate times for younger children.

8. Keep Technology & Screen Time in Check

  • Avoid screen time for your child during the one hour before bed as this can be very stimulating and can negatively impact on your child’s ability to fall asleep and their quality of sleep during the night.
  • It is recommended to avoid electronic screens and blue light prior to bedtime.

9. Sensory Strategies

  • There are multiple sensory strategies which can be utilised both during your child’s pre-bedtime routine and during sleep to promote positive sleep patterns for your child.
  • This can include:
    • Temperature – ensuring temperature regulation for your child with a warm to slightly cool room temperature.
    • Visual – using blinds / curtains, use of a night light if required, dim lights as much as possible prior to bedtime.
    • Smell – aromatherapy, some children may like toys to smell like their parent / caregiver if they struggle with being separation.
    • Touch – comfortable sleepwear, satin / silk pillowcase, extended bath time.
    • Auditory – nature, relaxation and meditation music, white noise.
    • Deep pressure – massage, being tucked into bed, lycra sheets on bed.
    • Movement – linear, rhythmic movements, rocking, swing, hammock.
  • Sensory strategies are highly individualised and need to be according to your child’s sensory preferences, likes and dislikes. If you have any questions about what sensory strategies may work best for your child please speak to your Occupational Therapist.

10. Make Sleep a Positive Experience

  • Make your child’s sleep experience and going to bed positive for your child.
  • Gentle and reassuring tone of voice.
  • Give positive but calming attention when your child is in bed. Give praise, positive encouragement and rewards.
  • Can use a sticker or reward chart if working on sleep and changing your child’s sleep pattern.
  • Make sleep a priority in your family and ensure parents / caregivers are also modelling positive sleep habits.

If you have concerns or challenges with your child falling asleep, staying asleep during the night, waking up early or any other sleep concerns and you feel that your child and family would benefit from Occupational Therapy sessions to learn more about additional sleep strategies, interventions and recommendations to use to assist in promoting positive sleep practices, please contact the Building Blocks Therapy Clinic for more information.


Carly Pettingill

Occupational Therapist