5 tips for creating a kid's sleep sanctuary

Amber LoRe - Sleep Consultant / Pediatric sleep consultant / Updated Jan 21, 2021
Child sleeping in bed at night

With so many families staying at home during this unprecedented COVID-19 pandemic, it’s more important than ever to ensure that everyone gets the sleep they need. Not only is getting sufficient sleep important for our immune systems, but it’s also essential for mental health and wellbeing. 

We often recommend using continual background noise during sleep times. While “white noise” machines and apps are the typical go-to, “pink noise” is often considered the better choice because it tends to be smoother across frequency and less staticy. 

Whether you opt for white/pink noise, ocean waves or classic rain sounds, the background noise can provide a strong cue for children that it’s time for sleep. The noise can also help muffle household sounds that can get in the way of high-quality sleep. This can be especially important for families with multiple children now at home during the day or when you have dogs that refuse to honor the sanctity of naptime.

Place the white noise machine in between your child’s sleep space and the likely source of noise, rather than right by your child’s head. 

Exposure to light plays a huge role in regulating our circadian rhythm. Once your child is beyond the day/night confusion stage (this typically resolves within the first eight weeks), we recommend keeping the bedroom very dark for sleep times. This can help regulate your child’s schedule, lengthen naps and cut down on early waking. 

There are lots of options on the market to consider, including blackout curtains, blackout blinds and blackout shades. You’ll want to ensure that there’s enough coverage on the window so that lots of light doesn’t sneak in around the edges. Ideally it will be too dark to read a book.

We recommend aiming for 68-72F in your child’s bedroom. When a child is too warm during sleep, we tend to see an increase in nightmares and night terrors.

While, yes, we do typically recommend a very dark room for optimal sleep, there are some instances in which you’ll want to use night lights. Since parents of newborns may be feeding and changing their baby frequently throughout the night, they might consider a motion activated night light by the changing area or feeding area. This will ensure some dim light when you need it, and darkness the rest of the time. 

Preschool age children may also feel more secure with a night light or two as they start developing normal childhood fears and anxieties. Since blue light can suppress melatonin production (a key hormone for circadian rhythm regulation), we recommend using a night light with low or no blue light if possible.

If you’ve ever gotten your child to fall asleep only to be foiled by a squeaky hinge when you were leaving the room, you’ll understand the importance of attending to loud doors ahead of time. You can address squeaky hinges with a rust dissolving lubricant, like WD-40. No WD-40? No problem. For those of us staying at home, practicing social distancing, you can also try a bit of cooking spray or oil (coconut or olive for example) to quiet those hinges.

If your child’s bedroom door tends to shut loudly, try placing a few felt pads along the inside of the door frame. Since not everyone had leftover felt furniture pads laying around, you can also use a large rubber band as a cushion to soften the sound of a loud door. Secure one rubber band around the doorknobs on each side of the door (ensure it doesn’t interfere with the door latch).