If your 7-year-old is a night owl and stays up until 10 p.m. or later, you might mistakenly assume that she needs a later bedtime or that she simply does not need much sleep. Sleep expert Jodi Mindell, author of "Sleeping Through the Night," stresses that more sleep, not less, can help address sleep issues in children with poor sleep habits. A regular bedtime routine and plenty of daytime physical activity can often help your 7-year-old get the 9 to 11 hours of sleep that the National Sleep Foundation suggests for her age.
Create and implement a consistent bedtime routine consisting of activities, such as a bath, stories, a quiet game, a healthy snack and tooth brushing. Try to make the routine special and fun so that it is something to look forward to for your child.
Increase physical activity so that she is tired when her bedtime rolls around. Dr. Marc Weissbluth, the author of "Healthy Sleep Habits, Healthy Child," recommends that children get at least 20 minutes of vigorous physical activity on a daily basis. The type of activity depends completely on you and your child's preferences -- you can go for a walk, ride a bike, swim or play tag.
Minimize household noise and distractions during the evening hours. It can be hard for a child to leave a noisy and chaotic household filled with the sounds of busy chatter or a loud TV show to go to his room for bedtime. Keep lights low and encourage your entire family to participate in quiet activities, like reading or putting together puzzles, during the hour before bedtime.
Address any fears or issues that keep your child from falling asleep. Carleton Kendrick, Ed.M., LCSW suggests that you explore what might be troubling your child by talking to her during the daytime when she might be more likely to open up about the source of her nighttime distress. If she suffers from a fear of the dark or of being alone, opening her door at night or adding a nightlight to her room might help.
If your child is truly afraid to fall asleep independently, Kendrick advises that taking away privileges or punishing your child for her fears will not improve her sleep habits. React to her sleep problems in a consistent, understanding manner to help her overcome her issues and fall asleep more easily.
- Sleeping Through The Night: How Infants, Toddlers and Their Parents Can Get a Good Night's Sleep; Jodi Mindell; 2005
- Ask Dr. Sears: Sleep Problems
- Family Education: Seven Year Old Who Won't Go To Sleep
- National Sleep Foundation: How Much Sleep Do We Need?
- Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child; Marc Weissbluth; 1999