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For children, sleep allows their bodies to rest from high levels of daily physical activity. Sleep also promotes healthy growth of bones, muscles and other body tissues.

Our brains become more active while we’re awake, and perform functions that help mental alertness. If we interupt these functions problems happen with memory concentration and mood.

Why children need a bedtime routine

A good bedtime routine can generate a good night’s sleep. Babies and children feel more relaxed and a routine will help them to relax and fall asleep easily.

Stick to your routine as much as you can, even when you’re not at home. It can help a child to settle in unfamiliar surroundings. It does not matter what you do but try to keep it the same every night.

Getting to sleep

To hep your child get to sleep, you should:

  • play quiet music or an audio story
  • keep the room dim – try blackout lining at windows/use a dimmer light switch
  • check the temperature of the room – make sure the child has suitable bedding and clothing
  • introduce a wind down time – 10 to 15 minutes of quieter free play can signal the end of daytime
  • run a warm bubble bath to help the child’s body and brain relax and wind down.

You can also:

  • introduce comforting sounds, for example, sound machines containing sounds such as white noise, heartbeats, rain, ocean and streams
  • keep the bedroom as a restful place free from stimulation, for example televisions or computers
  • choose pale/neutral colours for the bedroom
  • position the bed so that the child is not distracted by lights or movement from outside windows
  • discourage the child from playing on computers or watching TV for at least half an hour before going to bed. Do a quiet activity instead.

Strategies and activities for helping your child get to sleep

For some children deep pressure touch experiences, where they gain firm touch over a large area of their body, can feel calming and may help to settle themselves to sleep.

You should be aware of your child’s reaction to any of the following activities and stop if necessary. Trial the techniques in a graded way and put them into part of the child’s routine to see if they find it useful.

Make a ‘child sandwich’

Ask your child to lie between two sofa cushions. Gently add pressure as you pretend to put on cheese, tomatoes and sauces. You can also make a ‘hot dog’ by rolling your child in a rug, duvet or yoga mat.

Use textures at bath time

Encourage your child to rub their body with textures such as shaving foam, textured soap, loofah sponges or brushes. Get them to dry themselves firmly with a towel to provide additional deep pressure or dry them applying firm touch rather than light touch.

Use a heavy blanket

Or you can try tucked in sheets or a sleeping bag instead of a light duvet. Heavy pressure has a calming effect.

Bear hugs

Give your child a bear hug or encourage them to hug themselves tightly.

Use a gym ball

Ask your child to lie on their tummy and use a gym ball to apply pressure. Roll the ball up their legs, over their back, up to their head but do not roll over their head or bottom.  Then roll the ball down each arm and over their hands.