Bedtime tip: Make your child’s bedroom sleep friendly in 7 steps. It’s time for a makeover – or if not a complete makeover an assessment of your family’s bedrooms to make sure they are sleep-friendly.
Why a bedroom makeover?
Sleep experts tell us that the bedroom should be used only for sleeping, not as an office, storage space, or some other activity that we associate with the waking state. For those who have the luxury of a room dedicated just for sleeping, this is an ideal. However, for many, the child’s bedroom is where play, homework, social visits, and more occur.
Here’s how to makeover a child’s bedroom so that it serves multiple purposes & yet is still a calm environment for sleep
Step 1- Declutter
Seeing items all hugger-mugger can subtly disturb the serenity that encourages sleep. Set the intention of putting toys and clothes away as part of the bedtime ritual. Set up zones: one for quiet creative play like art, legos, and puzzles; one for more boisterous dramatic play; etc. Keep the active play toys as far away from the bed as possible.
You might consider creatively using free-standing room dividers, or curtains, to separate a play area from the sleeping area. Some good ideas can be found here. Pinterest is another resource rich in make-your-own room divider ideas.
Room dividers also help children who share a bedroom to be together and yet have a private space. A friend of mine shared his bedroom with his brother. The parents were wise enough to have a curtain divide the two twin beds. He remembers the brothers talking about their day quietly – it helped them put the day to bed (see #4 on this blog post).
Every night the signal that it was time to drift easily into sleep was when the younger brother asked “Are you all in your comfy position?”
On a personal note, as a child I was absolutely captivated with the idea of bed nooks and trundle beds. Nothing seemed more blissful than to climb into a “sleeping closet”, pulling the curtains and dreaming. Perhaps it was my obsession with fairy tales and make believe – sleep could be like being in the middle of a story. I also adored anything that smacked of “olden times”. When I was about 5, we had a rare visit to some distant cousins…or maybe just family friends. The adults were concerned that I wouldn’t sleep well in the strange home. But the older child I visited had a trundle bed- it was so storybook! I couldn’t wait for bedtime and according to the family, I slept long and deep. I remember nothing about the visit except for the trundle bed
Step 2 – Revamp the room color & what’s on display
As much as we love Goodnight Moon as a bedtime story…that is some stimulating bedroom for a little bunny! Lie down in your child’s bed and check out sight lines. Are the colors, patterns, and art stimulating or soothing? Discuss with your child what she or he might like to see before going to sleep. What’s irritating? You may have lovely memories of that big goofy stuffed clown your favorite uncle won for you at the carnival midway, but your child might not find it not so comforting. Color is another factor that is both personal and has been studied for its effect on mood. There are abstracts on this subject dating back to the 1950s.
Step 3 – Remove electronics
No TVs, computers, no digital clocks. Not only does the blue light from electronics disrupt sleep no electronics means no distractions from sleep or the kind creative play that is so foundational for development. Instill in children early the habit to unplug.
Step 4 – How’s the light?
Light affects how deep and restorative our sleep is – even in children. Get really good curtains or shades if there is ambient light outside the bedroom or if you’d like to ensure your child doesn’t wake up when the sun does. Opening the curtains in the morning can be a joyful signal and helpful ritual to start the day. Try to avoid using a night light. Wellness Mama has an excellent post on this topic.
Step 5 – Stay cool
The ideal temperature is somewhere between 65 and 72 degrees. Our bodies’ natural thermostat needs to cool down in order to enter REM – deep – sleep. A too-hot bedroom makes it difficult for the body to make that adjustment.
Step 6 – What you can’t see counts
The National Sleep Foundation’s 2013 International Bedroom Poll makes for a pretty fascinating read. When responding to the statement “I feel more relaxed in my bed if my room has a pleasant, fresh scent” 78% of U.S. Americans and Canadians answered “yes”. The numbers for some other countries are Mexico, 98% and Japan, 40%.
Lavender is the scent of choice, and keeping clean, fresh linens helps make the bed and bedroom a place for solid sleep.
If you have the resources, you may want to do some research into off-gassing items in the bedroom. Off gassing is the emission of potentially toxic chemicals from commonly found things in the bedroom: wall paint, bedding and mattresses, carpets, and even pajamas and stuffed animals.
If you want to explore making your child’s bedroom toxin-free, start with pajamas, pillow and pillow case, and the stuffed animal bedtime buddy. You can even make a simple stuffed toy from things around the house, including favorite clothing that your child has outgrown. It’s sometimes difficult for adults to remember how sad it felt when, as children, we outgrew some of our favorite clothes. How much fun to make your own transitional cuddly toy out of a favorite sweater!
Organic mattresses can be prohibitively expensive for many of us, this article has some affordable “hacks”.
Choosing natural paint is another simple and affordable way to enhance the sleep environment. When my daughter was 10, she dearly wanted her bedroom repainted and wanted to do it with her friends. I researched non-toxic paint Mythic Paint came highly recommended. I balked at the price per gallon, but the salesperson at the local distributor promised me that it was so safe you could eat it. (And wouldn’t you know, one of those boys tested that one out. Fortunately, his mom was very cool about it.) One gallon went a long way – and that was with a lot of waste from the 10-year-old painters. The color is still vibrant after a decade so it did pay for itself.
New, organic mattresses are beyond the budgets of many. If you’re uncertain about the quality of your child’s mattress, there are more affordable solutions than a brand-new organic one. This link is a good place to start.
Step 7 – What’s the frequency? (calm sound)
White noise masks background sounds so that we aren’t jarred from sleep by the random dog bark or firehouse alarm. White noise comes in many forms and a quick search for white noise machines will yield a lot of results. Personally, I’ve had success with tuning a radio between stations, and when I get static, I turn the volume way down. I’ve also had success with children by putting on a calming story sound file. The child begins the sleep process paying attention to the story, poem, or gentle lullaby and is eventually soothed while at the same time learning narrative and tonal patterns, and increasing vocabulary.
What’s working in your bedroom that facilitates sleep? Did Sleepytime club miss anything? Do you have some good bedroom hacks you’d like to share? Please comment below.
For more ways to make sure sleep is part of your family’s natural rhythm, hear sleep and parenting experts share their expertise. The Get Your Sleep On Summit is free and features Dr. Laura Markham (Aha! Parenting), Dr. Robert Rosenberg (Answers for Sleep), and Dana Obleman (Sleepsense).