To sleep in bed and up at the same hours each day – including weekends.  Body clocks don’t know about the weekend.

Bedroom is cool, calm, dark (some may need night light) and preferably at least an hour before sleep time, electronics free – including TV, cell phone, video games, internet access…

Wake up to alarm that is consistent – like a clock radio

When kids can’t sleep well, ask them to take a hot bath before sleep – let me stay in and sweat, which can improve deep and REM sleep (this won’t work for everybody, but most)

Teach them that sleep remakes their brains

– it’s necessary for learning and memory, including muscle memory and all sports:

Sleep Tips for Ages 3-5

Emphasize telling or reading stories before bed

Have the child try to create her own story

Ask about dreams in the morning, and try to make a story out of the dreams

Let them nap – kids this age need 11-13 hours of sleep

If they dream of monsters, let them imagine the monsters are friendly and under their control

Sleep Tips Ages 5-12

Make sure they get lots of physical activity during the day, hopefully stopping 2-3 hours before sleep

Ask them to read by themselves, or, if you have the time, tell them stories before bedtime; then ask them to make up different endings and tell you a story

Have them make up dreams they’d like to have, and ask them about them in the morning

Allow plentfiful naps especially in the afternoon – these kids need 10-11 hours on average of sleep

Reading improves sustained attention, necessary for sustained achievement

Sleep Tips Ages 12-18

An interrupted brain is a non-attentive brain; turn off electronics at least an hour before sleep – make sure they’re off yourself; if necessary, get them out of the room

Make the room really dark; if necessary use eyeshades before going to sleep

As a fun game, teach them very simple yoga poses as a prelude to sleep, poses they can also use on waking

Use reading if you can as part of their one hour presleep ritual to calm down

Let them go to bed relatively late if school times are late; otherwise make sure they get lots of sunlight on waking as early morning light switches their body clocks earlier

Allow long naps on weekends; teenagers need on average 9 1/2 hours to learn well and control weight

If they refuse to make any changes in their sleep patterns, ask them to try changes for 1-2 weeks and then see the results – they should feel more alert, more aware, have an easier time in school and sports.


Matthew Edlund is an award-winning expert on rest, body clocks, and sleep. Dr. Edlund’s work had been featured in O, the Oprah Magazine, Prevention, Shape, Redbook, Real Simple, More,, and hundreds of other magazines, newspapers and websites.  He founded the West Coast Regional Sleep Disorders Center, and now runs both the Center for Circadian Medicine and the Gulf Coast Sleep Institute in Sarasota, Florida.