Simple Bedroom Fixes to Improve Your Child’s Sleep

Simple Bedroom Fixes to Improve Your Child’s Sleep

- in Ages & Stages, Featured, Parenting

Kids with sleep troubles aren’t alone—70 percent of children under age 10 experience a sleep problem several nights a week, according to a University of Houston study. If your family is stuck in the bleary haze of sleep deprivation, your child’s bedroom could be the source of the problem. 

Happily, sleep science can help you create a bedroom that’s a sanctuary for sleep. These simple bedroom fixes could put your child’s sleep troubles to rest:

Bedroom Blunder: Too Much Light

The soft light streaming through your child’s bedroom window can seriously impact sleep quality. Exposure to artificial light has drastically increased, and its negative effect on our health and well-being is powerful.

Why It’s Critical

Light exposure is one of the strongest regulators of the biological clock, says Dr. Patrick Wolcott, medical director of the Sleep Center of Southern California. Nighttime light—even the glow from your child’s monitor or alarm clock—suppresses melatonin and disrupts circadian rhythms. Children are especially sensitive to extra light exposure, so nighttime light is particularly disruptive to their sleep patterns, notes Wolcott.

Quick Fixes

Make the house as dark as possible in the hours before bed by drawing the curtains and limiting television and video games. Even tiny beams of light can impact sleep, so black out the bedroom by installing light-blocking shades, shutting off electronics, and turning bright alarm clocks toward the wall.

Blue lights (like those on many modern gadgets) are especially harmful. “Something about the blue light spectrum affects sleep-wake patterns more than regular white light,” says psychologist Shelby Harris, director of the Behavioral Sleep Medicine Program at Montefiore Medical Center in New York City. 

Bedroom Blunder: Too Warm

When people have a too-warm bedroom, sleep suffers. If sunlight is turning your child’s bedroom into a sauna, chilling out can improve his/her ability to fall asleep quickly at bedtime and sleep through the night. 

Why It’s Critical

Bedroom temperature is about more than comfort; it’s an important physiological cue, says Harris. First, a drop in body temperature triggers sleep. Then the body naturally cools over the course of the night, reaching its lowest core temperature two hours before waking. Sleeping in a space that’s too warm is linked to nightmares, night waking, even Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS).

While the ideal bedroom temperature is largely a matter of personal preference, experts say cool rules. “Between 60 to 68 degrees is ideal,” says Dr. Martin Cohn, medical director of the Sleep Disorders Center of Southwest Florida.

Quick Fixes

If air conditioning is an option, use it to cool the bedroom before turning in. Otherwise, open windows and use fans to help move warm air out of the bedroom. Blackout shades are also helpful, because a room that stays darker will also stay cooler. 

Bedroom Blunder: Too Stimulating

Modern kids’ bedrooms are often home to heaps of electronics, stacks of homework, jumbles of toys, and piles of books. It all adds up to a space that sends your child’s brain into overdrive, instead of into restful sleep.

Why It’s Critical

When it comes to sleep, kids’ bodies crave routine and repetition, Wolcott says. So watching television, playing video games, and surfing the Internet before bed programs the brain to wake up when it should be settling down for sleep.

Quick Fixes: 

Make your child’s bedroom a haven for sleep by banning laptops, video games, and television. If reading in bed is a cherished habit, set a time limit on bedtime reading and provide light reading materials—flipping through a magazine is less stimulating than an intense chapter book, and less likely to keep your child’s brain buzzing all night.

Bedroom Blunder: Too Messy

Turns out, moms are right—a messy bedroom can be hazardous to your child’s health. According to the National Sleep Foundation, people who make their beds daily are 19 percent more likely to sleep well every night. And 71 percent of Americans say they sleep better in a fresh-smelling bedroom.

Why It’s Critical

“We spend a third of our lives in bed, so our bedroom should be a peaceful retreat,” says Harris. Climbing into a clean, fresh bed helps children relax and set aside their cares, while messy, unkempt rooms may provoke stress. 

Quick Fixes:

Make daily bed-making a family habit. To invoke even more calm, adopt the feng shui-inspired habit of closing closet and bedroom doors before tuck-in. Creating a sense of order in the bedroom helps pave the way for sweeter dreams, starting tonight.

Five-minute Bedroom Makeover

Take a few minutes to improve your child’s sleeping space with these quick fixes from sleep expert Dr. Shelby Harris:

  • Make the bed, and remove out-of-season sheets and blankets. 
  • Cover windows, bright electronics, and other light sources.
  • Close closet doors, bathroom doors, and dresser drawers.
  • Remove piles of laundry, stacks of paper, and unfinished homework.
  • Leave the video games, laptops, cell phones, and electronics in another room.
  • Plug in a fan or white noise machine.

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