Looking for scienced-based pediatric sleep tips? Look no further!
If you know me, you know I’m a HUGE fan of evidence-based sleep advice.
Because while those old wives’ tales our grandmothers taught us might be tempting, they’re often wrong and can even be dangerous.
My clients and social media community are always asking me for natural ways to help their children fall asleep.
Today, I’m sharing 10 science-based pediatric sleep tips you can try today to help your child fall asleep (and stay asleep).
Pediatric Sleep Tip #1: Know Your Child’s Sleep Needs
It’s no secret that our kids need sleep. The CDC reports that sleep is a critical factor in the prevention of type 2 diabetes, obesity, poor mental health, injuries, and attention or behavior problems.
But how much sleep does your child need? While every little one is different, this is how much sleep a child needs by age, according to The Cleveland Clinic:
|Age Range||Sleep Recommendation|
|Babies (4-12 months)||12-16 hours, including day sleep|
|Toddlers (12-24 months)||11 to 14 hours, including day sleep|
|Preschoolers (3-5 years)||10-13 hours, may include day sleep|
|School-aged kids (6-12 years)||9-12 hours|
|Teenagers (13-18 years)||8-10 hours|
Bottom line? Sleep is the foundation of a healthy lifestyle, so prioritize it in order to see the benefits!
Pediatric Sleep Tip #2: Mind the Room Temperature
How’s this for a fun fact? Your body temperature decreases in preparation for sleep. So, when your room is too warm, this process becomes disrupted.
A room that’s too warm also increases the risk for SIDS, so a cooler environment not only promotes quality sleep but safe sleep as well.
Bottom line? The Sleep Foundation (and this sleep coach!) recommends setting the thermostat to around 69 degrees for optimal sleep.
Pediatric Sleep Tip #3: Use White Noise
Did you know that even mild disturbances can affect the quality of sleep (according to Nature Neuroscience)? So you’re right to be frustrated when the neighbor honks their car horn during your little one’s nap time!
A sound machine, like this one, will help drown out ambient noise and will help ensure your baby or toddler will sleep through any unexpected or alarming noises.
Bottom line? Use white noise to help your little one sleep better.
Pediatric Sleep Tip #4: Use Breast Milk Pumped at Night to Help with Sleep
Did you know that milk pumped at night contains melatonin–the hormone responsible for our circadian rhythms and sleep?
According to La Leche League International, a mother’s breast milk goes through a lot of chemical changes while she nurses.
“Interesting findings include several substances that vary in accordance with the mother’s circadian rhythms, including some amino acids, melatonin, trace elements, and even a few nucleotides—the building blocks in many important biological processes,” the organization reports.
Bottom line? The next time you plan to be away from your infant at bedtime, consider giving a bottle of breastmilk pumped at night to their caregiver. They’ll likely sleep better!
Pediatric Sleep Tip #5: Expose Your Little One to Natural Light During the Day
Natural light plays a crucial role in our circadian rhythms (the biological process that dictates our sleep cycle.)
This Journal of Sleep Research article suggests that babies who are exposed to afternoon sunlight sleep better at night than those who are not.
Bottom line? Expose your little one to natural light in the afternoon–they might just sleep better at night!
Pediatric Sleep Tip #6: Reduce Screen Time Before Bed
I know, I know–you’d think a TV show or some quiet iPad time would help your little one calm down before bed, but it actually has the opposite effect.
This JCEM article notes that “…chronically exposing oneself to electrical lighting in the late evening disrupts melatonin signaling and could therefore potentially impact sleep, thermoregulation, blood pressure, and glucose homeostasis.”
And the Sleep Foundation reports that the blue lights emitted by tablets, mobile devices, and TVs suppress melatonin, the sleep hormone.
Bottom line: Turn off all screens within one hour of bedtime.
Pediatric Sleep Tip #7: Create a Sleep Schedule
Our bodies crave routine.
So, when you put your little one (16 weeks +) to sleep around the same times throughout the day and at bedtime, their bodies will eventually learn to get sleepy around those times.
According to the Mayo Clinic: “Go to bed and get up at the same time every day, including weekends. Being consistent reinforces your body’s sleep-wake cycle.”
Note: Babies under the age of 16 don’t have a fully developed circadian rhythm, so don’t stress too much about the clock. Just reinforce a solid Wake, Eat, Play, and Sleep routine.
Bottom line: Create a sleep schedule for older infants and toddlers.
Pediatric Sleep Tip #8: Create a Bedtime Routine
Just like our bodies crave and thrive on a sleep schedule, our bodies also love the routines associated with that schedule.
So, when we implement a consistent bedtime routine for our little ones, their bodies will eventually begin to associate that routine with sleep.
Need proof? This Pub Med article notes that “ a consistent bedtime routine was associated with better sleep outcomes, including earlier bedtimes, shorter sleep onset latency, reduced night wakings, and increased sleep duration.”
A solid bedtime routine could look like this:
- Small snack,
- Pajamas and a sleep sack (if age appropriate)
- Lights out (with white noise)
Bottom line? Bedtime routines work.
Pediatric Sleep Tip #9: Back is Best (And other Safe Sleep Rules)
According to the AAP, SIDS is the leading cause of postneonatal mortality.
That’s why it’s important to practice safe sleep.
The AAP recommends babies under the age of 1 sleep on their backs, alone, and in an empty crib or bassinet (no blankets, pillows, or toys).
The organization also recommends mothers breastfeed, if possible, and avoid smoking.
Bottom line: practice safe sleep.
Pediatric Sleep Tip #10: Try Sleep Training; It’s safe!
I get a lot of questions about the “dangers” of sleep training; there’s a lot of misinformation out there!
So here’s what you need to know. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, sleep training is safe:
“Behavioral sleep techniques have no marked long-lasting effects (positive or negative). Parents and health professionals can confidently use these techniques to reduce the short- to medium-term burden of infant sleep problems and maternal depression.”
Bottom line? There’s no evidence to support that sleep training will negatively impact your little one long-term. But it will likely help your child learn how to fall asleep (and stay asleep!) independently!
Need more information about the benefits of sleep training? Check out this blog post.
To Sum It Up
I’m a huge believer in evidence-based practices when it comes to sleep. Here are the 10 science-based sleep tips covered in this blog post.
- Prioritize Sleep by knowing how much sleep your child needs
- Mind the room temperature
- Use white noise
- Use breastmilk pumped at night to promote quality sleep
- Expose your little one to natural light during the day
- Reduce screen time before bed
- Create a sleep schedule
- Create a bedtime routine
- Practice safe sleep
- Try sleep training
And if you’re ready to give sleep training a try today, reach out! I’m happy to chat with you about your sleep struggles and how I might be able to help.