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What Is The Ideal Sleep Environment For Kids?

ages 0 - 6 months ages 11 years - 18 years ages 5 years - 11 years ages 6 months - 5 years consistency sleep May 08, 2024

You’ve completed your child’s bedtime routine, and they’re ready for bed, but is their room a place where a child could easily fall asleep?  What does your child’s bedroom look like?  How much furniture is in it?  Are there toys in it?  Are those toys hidden or easily accessible?  How many stuffed animals are on their bed?  These are all factors in creating an ideal sleep environment for your child.  That environment is going to look different at different ages.  In this post, I’m not going to address crib safety; instead, I will focus on young children in preschool through early elementary school. However, some of the tips related to things like room temperature and noise machines will apply to all age groups.  I’ll start out with those right off the bat, so keep reading if you’re interested in those general tips and learning about the small number of products that are actually essential in a child’s room.


The Ideal Bedroom Environment

Getting children to sleep well is very high on my list of parenting priorities, so I design their whole room around sleep.  When my little ones moved from a crib to a bed, they simply enlarged the nearly empty rectangular sleeping space.  When we just had one child, his bedroom consisted of a mattress on the floor (why have a bed frame that makes for a falling hazard in his room?), a blanket, a stuffed animal, and a dresser with just clothes in it.  That is literally all that was in his room.  So, how did the transition from crib to bed go?  Seamlessly.


Young children don’t need mobiles; they don’t need elaborately decorated bedroom walls or countless glow-in-the-dark stickers on the ceiling; they need a nice place to rest.  When my three young boys shared a room, it looked a bit like a mattress store in our house, with mattresses spread all over the floor. The only other furniture in their room was one nightstand to hold a lamp and an alarm clock. So they could jump around in their room during the day with less risk of hurting themselves on excess furniture.  And when bedtime came, that room cried out for sleep.


I once saw a well-known psychologist specializing in couples and sexual relationships speak at a conference, and he said, “Bedrooms are for sex and sleeping.”  You can keep that in mind when considering your own Bedroom Environment, but for kids, this translates to “Bedrooms are for sleeping.”  So, all you need to do is set them up with a space conducive to sleep.


The only products you might actually consider buying to benefit your child’s sleep are room-darkening shades, a color-coded alarm clock (essential for sleep training), a noise machine (optional), an air purifier (optional), and a video baby monitor.  I’ll link to my favorite options for these products in the podcast description.


How to Manage Toy Storage in a Smaller Home

Suppose you have a smaller living space and must store some of your child’s toys or other gear in their bedroom.  In that case, you can adapt this principle by keeping toys tucked away in the closet, under the bed, in storage bins with lids – anything that makes it clear that once clean-up is complete, the toys stay away until the morning.


As your child gets older, they’ll start to request having more of their belongings in their room and be able to have more decorations on their walls.  At what age?  There is a vast discrepancy in when your child will be ready for a more ornate room, probably between 3 and 5.  


You know your child better than anyone, so you’ll get a feel for when they’ve got the bedtime routine down so well that they won’t even be tempted to touch that T-Rex sitting on a nearby shelf at tuck-in time.  Then, you allow things to enter the bedroom bit by bit over time to test the waters, gently guiding your munchkins along the path to independence.


What About Room Temperature?

I’d be remiss if I didn’t touch on room temperature in this post about the ideal sleep environment for kids.  Room temperature can greatly affect your child’s sleep quality.  The ideal room temperature for young children to sleep is generally considered to be between 68-72°F (20-22°C).  This temperature range is comfortable for most children and helps to ensure they are neither too hot nor too cold during the night.  Maintaining this temperature can contribute to a safer sleep environment and promote better sleep quality, as extreme temperatures can disrupt sleep and pose safety risks.  It's also a good idea to dress your child in appropriate sleepwear that complements the room's temperature, opting for breathable fabrics that can help regulate their body temperature throughout the night.


A Note About Older Children

The bedroom environment plays a crucial role in promoting restful sleep for older children and teens, with one of the most significant factors being the presence or absence of screens.  Electronic devices such as smartphones, tablets, and televisions emit blue light, which can interfere with the natural sleep cycle by suppressing the production of melatonin, the hormone responsible for regulating sleep.  This suppression can make it harder for kids to fall asleep at a reasonable time.  Moreover, the content accessed on these devices can be mentally stimulating or emotionally engaging, further delaying the onset of sleep.  Keeping screens out of kids' bedrooms at night helps create a sanctuary dedicated to rest, encouraging healthier sleep habits.  By establishing a screen-free bedroom environment, parents can help their children disengage from the distractions and stimulations of the digital world, making it easier for them to stick to a reasonable bedtime and ensuring they get the restorative sleep needed for their physical and mental well-being.


Take-Home Message

Take a minute to think about what your child’s bedroom looks like and how that’s working for your family.  For example, are bedtimes a snap, or are there frequent distractions by tempting toys or delays by toys left out?  Do you have a separate play area where some belongings can live to keep the bedroom focused on sleep?  Or can you improve the storage system to make cleaning up toys in the bedroom easier and clearly signal when they’ve been put away for the night?  What can you do to set your child up for a successful night’s sleep?


Today’s post is part of my Sleep Hygiene series focussed on the Bedroom Environment, following up on past posts about Bedtime, Bedtime Routines, and Managing Bedtime Disruptions, so be sure to check out the full series.


Sleep hygiene falls under the Consistency category of my 5 C’s parenting framework (click here to learn more about The 5 C’s).  To view more posts in this category, use the category search menu on the right of your screen.  Thanks for joining me to fill your parenting toolbox with psychology-based tools to feel more confident and capable in your parenting.  Keep up the good work on your amazing parenting journey!

P.S. If you have an infant or toddler who is ready to sleep-train, be sure to check out my step-by-step sleep training process detailed in my Sleep Training Success Masterclass.  You'll learn everything you need to know to get your child sleeping through the night!

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