How to set up your school-age child’s bedroom so that it promotes great sleep

Would you like to set up your child’s bedroom to encourage great sleep? (Well, of course you would!) To do this, you’ll want to remove some things and add others.

Let’s start by talking about what to remove from your child’s bedroom

Ideally, children’s bedrooms should have no electronics at all. To quote from the American Academy of Pediatrics’s wonderful website directly, “Create tech-free zones. Keep family mealtimes, other family and social gatherings, and children’s bedrooms screen free.” The AAP has included many other wonderful tips on children and media use here.

The list of electronics to remove includes televisions, video game systems, laptop or tablet computers, and cell phones. If you are unwilling to remove these completely, at least remove remote controls, game controllers and DVDs each night at bedtime.

Why do electronics have no place in your child’s bedroom? Screens mimic daylight and fool the brain into thinking that it’s daytime, not nighttime. They can also be too interesting and too stimulating. Finally, they allow your kids to be in touch with friends for long periods at bedtime which is likely to keep them from getting great sleep.

Food for thought: from the time you give your child a cell phone, it is wise to have a “house rule” that this phone is left to charge overnight somewhere outside of the bedroom (perhaps in the kitchen or in your bedroom).

Things that turn off later
Try not to have anything in your child’s room that turns off later. Sometimes parents add music players, essential oil diffusers, bedtime videos, or other items to a child’s room. If these turn off later, this change can trigger an awakening for the child. For more on this, consider reading my post titled Kids of “Lawnmower Parents” May Not Be Great Sleepers.

Family Pets
Sometimes a family pet likes to sleep in a child’s room. But be sure to think through whether this is a good idea for your child. Will your pet stay in your child’s room each and every night at bedtime until your child is deeply asleep? Will your pet stay there all night, too? If not, this can make bedtime harder for your child or can cause longer nighttime wakings because your child will often want to find the pet again in order to get back to sleep. Pets  are wonderful, but they aren’t always so accommodating about staying put!

Now let’s talk about what to add to your child’s room

Reading light
Every school-age child’s bedroom should have a reading light near the bed that the child can turn on and off independently. This reading light can be a small bedside light or it can be the kind of light that clips onto the headboard or onto the book itself. It can even be a headband-style reading light like the ones kids use at summer camp. This last kind is great because it is easy to take along when your child sleeps elsewhere.

A bedside reading light allows your child to have a comfortable spot to do any required reading and it also allows your child to read in bed after the bedtime routine concludes until he or she  feels drowsy enough to turn this light off and fall asleep. Your child can relax with items other than books, too. Try adding a basket to your child’s bedside table with drawing pads, coloring books, puzzles or any other quiet activity.

Night light
Night lights are comforting for children and they allow you and your child to move around safely at bedtime (and during the night for a bathroom trip, for example).  Most children don’t need total darkness to sleep well. This night light should stay on all night so that your child’s room looks the same each time he or she wakes up. This is also why I always recommend against letting a child fall asleep with lights on at bedtime that you turn out later when you go to bed.

Water cup, flashlight and body pillow
A cup of water is recommended at the bedside and a small flashlight is often nice to have at hand. Some kids also like curling up with a body pillow.

Motion sensor
Some parents like to install a motion sensor in their child’s doorway so that they know if their child is headed to their bedroom or to the bathroom. A motion sensor is definitely  recommended if a child begins to sleepwalk. For more on this last point, please consider reading my post titled How to keep a sleepwalking child safe.

Optional things to add if your child isn’t feeling well
Finally, for a sick child, I’d add some extra blankets and a simple way to call or alert a parent if he or she needs something. Some parents use a bell (and some even dust off the baby monitor that has been stored away in a closet).

I really hope these tips help your child sleep well each night!


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