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Falling Asleep and Staying Asleep 

Written on April 28, 2020

Did you know that kids typically need at least 12 hours of sleep each night? Sleep is important to help improve focus and brain function! But what if your tot won’t fall asleep or stay asleep? Here are some simple tips to help your child get the rest and recovery they need to be happy and healthy.

  1. MOVE
    1. Provide lots of opportunities for heavy work and gross motor movement throughout the day (push, pull, climb, jump, squeeze) – but about 1 hour before bed, switch gears to more quiet playtime in order to ‘wind down’
    2. Provide slow, rhythmic movements either in a rocking chair or a blanket right before bed 
  2. TOUCH
    1. Give your child a warm bath before bedtime
    2. Give ‘deep squeezes’ or firm hugs before bedtime
    3. Provide heavy blankets, body pillows, or stuffed animals to squeeze in order to provide deep pressure (not recommended for infants)
  3. LISTEN
    1. Play soft, calming music (classical music or calming nature sounds)
    2. Read a bedtime story to your child in a soft voice 
  4. SMELL
    1. Lavender helps calm the body – use this in the bath or an air diffuser in the room
  5. TASTE
    1. Avoid caffeine or sugary foods/drinks close to bedtime 
    2. Drink warm water or milk before bed (but make sure to go to the bathroom before falling asleep!)
  6. LOOK
    1. Keep shades drawn and room dimly lit upon entering before bed to lessen visual stimuli
    2. Limit screen time (T.V., tablets, phones) before bed
  7. “SLEEP IS SCARY”
    1. Provide a dim night light so the room isn’t too dark 
    2. Leave bedroom door cracked open 
    3. Provide a security object (blanket or stuffed animal)
    4. Place the mattress on the floor if your child is afraid of heights
    5. Use bed rails or body pillows to increase safety 

The most important thing you can do is follow a consistent bedtime routine to help your child acclimate to a steady sleep/wake schedule. If these tips aren’t helping, BDI Playhouse Children’s Therapy offers free screenings to give your child the necessary tools to help fall asleep and stay asleep. 

Written by: Jade Pellerito, Occupational Therapist