How to Organize Your Child's Bedroom to Promote Good Sleep
Raising a child involves a lot of responsibility, often even more than parents initially expect. Not only are you keeping your children safe and guiding their learning and growing experiences, it's also your responsibility to make sure their home environment is comfortable and healthy.
Many people don't realize until their children are already growing up into toddlers that your choice in furnishings and home decor in a child’s bedroom has just as much impact on your kid as the rules you set and the conversations you have. Pretty soon you'll find yourself setting up arts and crafts tables, pretend play areas, and step-stools for the kitchen and bathroom. But what about how your child sleeps?
Decorating a child's bedroom is one of the most fun sets of decisions you get to make when raising children. Colorful walls, toy boxes, and fun decor are all hallmarks of a lovingly designed children's bedroom, but surprisingly few parents know how to build a room that also promotes healthy sleep. The good news is that you can keep all the brightly colored walls and toys as long as you also have the right key elements for deep sleep and pleasant child dreams.
Separating Play and Sleep
The first and most important tip should guide both how the room is designed and how you handle bedtime. In most houses, a child's playroom is also their bedroom. This makes sense because you can keep all your child's possessions in one place and teach them responsibility by encouraging them to make sure toys find their way back into the child's room and toy boxes on a regular basis. However, if you're not careful, sleep can be put at risk because play happens to close to, or even on, the bed.
Understanding Sleep Association
The human mind takes clear signals to know when it's time to sleep and when it's time to be awake. Our minds associate certain places and activities with necessary wakefulness and sleep time with literally going over to the bed. The bed itself needs to be reserved for sleeping so that when you climb into bed, your mind knows that it's time to get sleepy and it’s safe to fall asleep. If your child plays on or near their bed, they may have a harder time going to sleep at bedtime and will also be more likely to get up in the middle of the night to continue playing.
Changing Bedroom Modes
There are two clear ways to design your child's bedroom to allow for tidy play without interfering with sleep. The first is the physical separation. Create two significant sections of the room and establish where play happens away from the bed. This can be done with a special decorative rug that the child associates with play time or by using furniture to create a literal barrier between the play and sleep areas.
Alternately, especially for smaller rooms, you can create a two-mode bedroom instead. This is a way of changing the room around between waking and sleeping times so that the change itself signifies time for bed. You can do this by making the bed in a certain way, maybe with a special cover that is considered safe to play on. You can also design the bed to be put away with a roll-away design or even a flip-up murphy bed. This will allow your child to use their room for two purposes, and even use the bed space for play, while still making bedtime a special separate event.
Addressing the Nightlight Question
Studies have found that almost all people, including children, sleep better in an almost completely dark room. Of course, many children want nightlights and parents would rather leave a soft light on so their child can find their way for midnight potty breaks. For most parents, the best answer is to minimize light and put the nightlight somewhere useful but perhaps not directly visible from the bed.
Make it a policy to eliminate unnecessary electronic lights from devices up to and including ‘tucking the electronics in’ with a bedtime blanket to hide the little glowing points that come with any modern bedroom. A small night light set into an outlet near the door will be mostly out of sight. The biggest debate is a digital clock, something that we all struggle with. Look for a clock that can be dimmed or even go without for younger children for whom you will be managing wake-up time anyway.
Providing Clean, Comfortable Bedding
Let's face it, children are messy and their bedding needs to withstand a lot. From the bottom up, start with a non-crinkly plastic cover for any child under seven to reduce embarrassment from the occasional unpredictable accident. After that, you need sturdy and breathable sheets, both top and bottom. Look for cotton or bamboo sheets that wick night sweat moisture away from your child and dry quickly for all-night comfort even on hot nights or when your child is sick.
Choosing a Pillow
Everyone has their own preference for pillows, even your children. Let your child test a few ranging in fluffiness, firmness, and thickness to get their preference and then get a hypoallergenic pillow of the right qualities. Your child might prefer one slender pillow for stomach sleeping, a big fluffy pillow to sink into, or even a pile of pillows to prop them slightly up at night.
Laundering Sheets Weekly
Finally, make sure bedding is washed once a week at minimum with special washings after particularly sweaty nights or accidents. This will make sure your child is always sleeping on cool, soft sheets without the buildup of sweat, oils, and skin cells that can make a sheet stiff and scratchy. It's alright to need new sheets every year or so from all the washing to ensure your child gets good, healthy sleep.
Establishing a Bedtime Ritual
The final way to promote your child's healthy sleep is to make sure that bedtime is absolute in your house. There should be a set of activities that you and your child do together in the same order every night before putting them to bed. Just like a good bedtime ritual can help you get to sleep, it can also let your child's active little mind know that it's time to settle down for rest and to dream. This routine can start as early as an hour or two before bed with a final game or movie together and a bedtime snack. Most bedtimes include changing into pajamas, brushing teeth, and switching the bed from daytime mode into night time mode. The more regular and predictable the bedtime ritual is, the easier it will be for your child to transfer from an active day to deep sleep during the night.Building the right bedtime environment and routine for your child is important to help draw a line between daytime play and good healthy sleep. By making careful choices and guiding your child through a consistent bedtime every night, you can help your child fall asleep more deeply and reduce the chance of waking in the middle of the night. It'll improve their energy and focus each day. For more information about how to furnish a child’s bedroom for the deepest and most enjoyable sleep for parents and kids, contact us today!