How to Fix a Sleep Schedule When it has been Disrupted

How to Fix a Sleep Schedule When it has been Disrupted

12 July 2022 • Words by Karla Pretorius 3 mins

It’s no secret that a good night’s sleep is essential for children. Not only does sleep help them to feel rested and alert during the day, but it also plays a vital role in their overall health and well-being. When a child’s sleep schedule is disrupted and needs a fix — whether it’s due to a change in their routine (such as a new baby in the family or a move to a new house), an illness, or simply inconsistent bedtime habits — getting them back on a regular schedule can be a challenge. 

Here are a few tips to help you fix a sleep schedule for kids when it has been disrupted: 

Establish a regular bedtime and waketime

One of the most important things you can do to help your child get back on a regular sleep schedule is to establish a set bedtime and wake time. Even on weekends and holidays, try to stick to these set times as closely as possible. This will help to train your child’s body to expect to sleep and wake up at the same time every day.

Create a relaxing bedtime routine

A bedtime routine can be a great way to help your child wind down at the end of the day and prepare for sleep. Mindell and Williamson (2018) state that implementing a nighttime routine supports positive developmental outcomes for all children globally. Such a routine might include things like taking a bath, reading a book, or listening to apps like Moshi. Whatever you choose, try to do the same things in the same order each night so that your child knows what to expect. 

Keep the bedroom dark and quiet

Creating a dark and quiet environment in your child’s bedroom can also help to promote better sleep. Consider investing in blackout curtains or an eye mask to help block out any outside light. And, if your child is old enough, teach them to use earplugs to help block out any noise. 

Avoid screen time before bed

It’s essential to avoid any screen time (TV, tablets, phones, etc.) in the hour before bedtime. The light from screens can stimulate the brain and make it harder to fall asleep. If your child needs to use a screen before bed for schoolwork or other purposes, try dimmed lighting and set a timer, so they know when it’s time to power down. An exception to this rule is to play a soothing meditation or story on the phone or through a Bluetooth speaker. My partner’s children listen to a Moshi Meditation before bed every night. Click here to access one of their favorite stories. 

Get moving during the day

Encourage your child to get plenty of exercise during the day. Not only will this help to tire them out, but it will also help to regulate their natural sleep-wake cycle. 

Limit caffeine and sugar

Caffeine and sugar can both have a negative impact on sleep. Caffeine can make it harder to fall asleep and stay asleep, while sugar can cause energy spikes and crashes that make it difficult to get a good night’s rest. 

Avoid naps during the day

While naps can be tempting, they can actually make it harder for your child to sleep at night. If your child is tired during the day, encourage them to take a short walk or do another activity that will energize them and help them to stay awake until bedtime. 

Talk to your child’s doctor

If you’ve tried all of the above and your child still has difficulty sleeping, it’s important to talk to their doctor. There may be an underlying medical condition that is causing the sleep disruption. 

Getting your child back on a regular sleep schedule may take some time, but the positive outcomes will be significant. By following the tips above, you can help your child to get back on track and enjoy the benefits of a good night’s sleep.

Mindell, J. A., & Williamson, A. A. (2018). Benefits of a bedtime routine in young children: Sleep, development, and beyond. Sleep Medicine Reviews, 40, 93–108.

Karla Pretorius

A registered counselor with a MA in Psychology. Co-founder: AIMS Global & Leadership at: Augmental