Should you need urgent health advice please contact your GP or call NHS 111. In an emergency please visit A&E or call 999

Devon County Council is responsible for the writing, publishing and updating of the content on this page.

You're viewing the site locally in: Devon

Sleep and the younger child

As your child grows, parents often start to wonder if their child is ever going to sleep through the night.

As part of our Health visiting offer, we can support you if needed with your child’s bedtime routine to ensure they get ultimate comfort should you want to move towards the day that they will start sleeping through in the future.

We want this information to be available to every parent because:

  • Introducing good sleep habits at a young age is a fantastic way to support a lifetime of healthy sleep.
  • Positive sleep associations will help your child to wind down at bedtime and allow this to be a calm and relaxing experience for you both.

The NHS website has lots of information that you might find useful within it for all ages:

What can impact on sleep?

There are some important things to think about that may impact sleep – these may vary depending on the age of your child.

  • Is the room- temperature, noise, lighting, stimulating toys appropriate for your child’s age?
  • Diet- could your child be hungry? Depending on the age of your child consider:
    • What are the normal expected feeding patterns for a child of your child’s age? For example, if you choose to continue to breastfeed for longer periods, your child under or over the age of one and beyond may well still be needing a feed overnight.
    • If already on a solid diet and an older child is your child’s diet balanced or is the evening meal very early?
    • If already on a solid diet and an older child is your child receiving stimulating food or drinks- caffeine or high sugar content?
    • If you are unsure chat to your PHN Team about infant waking and milk intake.
  • Daytime naps- could these be too little or too much. It’s a myth that overtired babies/children sleep well.
  • Are there any pets, perhaps entering your child’s room or moving around when your child sleeps?
  • Is screen time including television time too close to bedtime?
  • Health conditions – skin conditions; reflux, threadworms, and asthma are just some of the things that may impact sleep. If you are unsure, chat to your GP, pharmacy, or PHN team.
  • Is the bedroom a positive place to be? Using your child’s bedroom for timeout/behaviour management for children can create the bedroom as a ‘negative’ place. For more information and advice, chat to your PHN team.
  • Sleep associations – this is the BIG one! Some babies continue to breast or formula feed overnight until a year old and beyond.  After the first six months, if you are hoping to encourage them to start sleeping through, it may be beneficial to pop your baby in the cot awake or semi drowsy once fed.

Bedtime routine tips

If you are trying to encourage your baby of six months and older to sleep through the night, the following tips may help.

  • The routine is about preparing your child for sleep and should be a positive experience for you both. Try to make it calm, relaxed and child focused.
  • Brushing your child’s teeth as part of your child’s bedtime routine is really important part of this routine. Here is some information on how to do this effectively every day:
  • Try to create a clear difference between night and day from a very young age. Dimming lights, turning down the radio/TV, and talking more quietly all help.
  • Remove screen time at least one hour before bedtime – did you know that screens such as iPads, televisions, computers and game consoles give off a blue glow which can stimulate the brain and stops the release of melatonin. (Melatonin is the hormone you need to sleep).
  • Start quiet time 15/30 minutes before the routine for bed.
  • Routine for bedtime should be around 45 minutes – any longer and they can lose focus of what is happening.
  • Prepare bedroom – dim lights, draw curtains/blinds, and remove toys from sleeping space.
  • If your baby is over a year and has a milk feed before bed, try to give this feed before the bath and away from the sleeping area. For older children, milk association in relation to sleep routines can be a challenge. However, remember the cuddles your baby has whilst feeding are really important in building close and loving relationships, so make sure you make time for these still.
  • Bath time, warm, relaxing and calm where possible – this is a great way to support the release of that lovely sleep hormone. If you are unable to bath, then a full body wash is great too.
  • Straight into the bedroom from bath, ideally do not go back into living areas, and instead get dressed for bed in the bedroom.
  • Stories/massage/calm songs/relaxation music (for older children it may be a time to connect and debrief from day and end the day on positive).
  • Keep regular sleeping hours and be consistent with your routine.

Bedtime is an opportunity for you and your child to spend time together. It is important to make it pleasurable so that your child looks forward to going to bed.


Have your say

Help us improve the local information on this website and give us feedback about any contacts you have had with our service by completing the Devon Public Health Nursing feedback form.

ChatHealth Logo

Devon County Council runs a confidential secure text messaging service for parents of children aged 0-19 years called ChatHealth. The service operates Monday to Friday between 9am and 5pm, excluding bank holidays. All texts will be responded to by a public health nurse (health visitor/school nurse) within 24 hours. Outside of the service working hours, you’ll receive a message back to inform you that your text will be responded to once the line reopens. You can also call our Public Health Nursing hubs on the numbers listed below.

If you are concerned about the safety of a child in Devon, contact our Multi-Agency Safeguarding Hub (MASH) on 0345 155 1071 or email with as much information as possible.

This page was last reviewed on 29-04-2022

This page will be next reviewed on 29-04-2025