6 ways to help your kids sleep better
If you’ve ever had to deal with a child unwilling to go to sleep at bedtime, you’ve also inevitably dealt with a cranky kid the next morning. Unfortunately, something seemingly as simple as putting a child to sleep is often one of the biggest sources of frustration for parents worldwide. It takes a lot of effort, patience, and, more often than not, nerves of steel.
But why is sleeping such an important battle to fight anyways?
For both children and adults, sleep is a time when the body and brain get the chance to recover. It’s a process that facilitates growth, a time to store and sort through information, a crucial constituent of a healthy metabolism, and a contributor to a strong immune system. Furthermore, increasing numbers of research show the connection between lack of sleep and disorders such as ADHD, ADD, behavioural problems, weight issues, and much more.
And while all parents want their children to be healthy and happy, they don’t always have the necessary information to make the right choices. Statistics show that an alarming 30-40% of children don’t get enough sleep on a daily basis.
How much sleep is required for healthy development?
While the exact numbers will differ for every child, there are some basic guidelines you should aim to follow:
- Infants: 14 to 16 hours per day
- Toddlers: 12 to 14 hours per day
- Pre-schoolers: 10 to 12 hours per day
- School-aged kids: 10 to 11 hours per day
- Teens: 8 to 9 hours per day
It’s also not bad to know that adults need between 7 and 9 hours of sleep per day. So, while you’re looking at ways to improve your child’s sleep, you can try some of the techniques for yourself to ensure you’re getting the same quality of rest.
6 Ways to help your kids sleep:
1. Be mindful of the effect of light
The natural sleep cycle, also known as the circadian rhythm, is regulated by light and dark. These changes in the environment encourage the brain and pineal gland to release melatonin, a hormone that signals to the body that it’s time to sleep.
Modern life, however, has a tendency to do damage to the natural circadian rhythm, mainly due to the way our homes are built and designed. But, that isn’t to say you can’t do anything to help your child go to sleep. Simple things such as dimming the lights 2 hours before bedtime and making sure to choose warmer bulbs can help your little ones relax and go to bed more easily.
2. No electronics before bed
You’re probably aware of the negative effects of smartphones and tablets on children. But, what most people don’t know is that LED screens emit a type of blue light that can be detrimental to the above-mentioned circadian rhythm. What this means is that you should avoid the use of tablets, smartphones, computers, and TV a few hours before bedtime.
Instead, try to read a bedtime story or look at a picture book. Recent research makes a connection between reading before bed and lower stress levels, increased logical capacity, and quicker language acquisition.
3. Create a calm environment
While the lights in your child’s bedroom play a big part in sleep quality, so does the room’s entire design. Experts agree that the sleeping area should be void of distractions. That means no TV, computer, or video game console. You can add a couple of suitable plants for better air quality, or choose a calming wall colour – blue and green both make for great options.
In addition to this, make sure that your child’s bed is very high-quality. This means a hypoallergenic mattress, comfortable bedding that doesn’t scratch or retain moisture, and, for toddlers, a favourite (clean) stuffed animal or blanket. You also need to pay attention to the room temperature. During the night, going slightly cooler is generally considered to be better for sleep.
4. Be mindful of foods and snacks
The things children eat can have a big influence on how easily they will fall asleep at night. A general rule of thumb is to avoid sugar and simple carbs at dinner. This way, you’ll skip the sugar rush, as well as the inevitable crash that comes after it (and often causes nighttime hunger).
But, you could also experiment with sleep-promoting food options. Turkey, fatty fish, almonds, and walnuts can have a beneficial effect when consumed 2-3 hours before bedtime.
5. Encourage exercise
Sometimes, the inability to fall asleep simply has to do with excess energy. Some children will naturally need more physical activity throughout the day, and the current American Heart Association recommendation is a minimum of 60 minutes of physical exercise for kids aged 6-17.
Spending active time outside should be high on your list of priorities, as it encourages vitamin D absorption through sun exposure. Additionally, it can be a great way to promote cognitive development, as spending time outdoors requires the brain to quickly adapt to changing environments and conditions.
6. Stick to a routine
Finally, be mindful of the fact that humans are creatures of habit. Sometimes, all it takes for kids to start going to bed on time is to stick to the same routine every night. Of course, every family is different, and then there are those times when you’re travelling or going through temporary changes. Nonetheless, keeping your kid’s bedtime ritual as consistent as possible is going to be the biggest help you will get.
Following these six steps is sure to have a positive effect on your child’s sleeping patterns. As an added bonus, it will give you more time to rest as well. Try to give the tips a go, and you may just find that going to sleep doesn’t have to be a source of stress for the whole family.
Do you have a bedtime trick that works like a charm? If yes, share it in the comments section below.