How Can I Help My Child Sleep? Our Top 10 Tips!
Sleep plays an incredibly important role in setting up your child for academic success. As discussed previously, getting enough sleep each night and establishing healthy sleeping routines have a direct effect on a child’s ability to perform – not just academically, but across all aspects of life.
How do I get my child to sleep?
Where do you start when you feel like your child is not going to sleep? These are our top 10 tips on how to make a child sleep:
- Establish a regular bedtime. Some studies have indicated that the regularity of an individual’s sleep cycle is more important than the number of hours one sleeps each night. For those asking “How do I get my child to sleep?” it is important your child goes to bed at roughly the same time each night. Their body’s production of melatonin (the chemical responsible for tiredness) will align more closely with their sleep-wake rhythm, minimising feelings of grogginess in the morning.
- Set up a bedtime routine. On top of implementing a regular bedtime, creating a bedtime routine – bath, reading, meditation, etc. – will allow your child to relax and mentally unwind before falling asleep. Cortisol, the hormone associated with stress, negates the body’s ability to shut down and rest. Establishing a relaxing bedtime routine will minimise stress, and increase your child’s chances of falling into a deep sleep (also known as slow wave sleep), the stage of sleep in which information is consolidated in the brain.
- Establish regular waking times. We know children love to sleep-in on the weekend, particularly teenagers, but it may not be the best move in the long-term. Similarly to setting a regular bedtime, it is beneficial for your child to wake up at approximately the same time each day. Again, this helps to align their body’s production of melatonin with their sleep-wake cycle.
- Napping. Rather than encouraging sleep-ins, it may be more beneficial for your child to have the occasional nap if they’re feeling a little tired. As we all know from experience, though, naps need to be kept to a 20 minute maximum. Any longer, and your child will begin to fall into a deep sleep, confusing their body clock and making them feel too tired or too alert at the wrong times.
- Ensure the bedroom is suitable for optimal sleep. Generally speaking, bedrooms need to be dark and quiet. If your child is a little anxious or afraid of the dark, a night light may be a happy medium. Other things to consider are temperature and clocks. Try and regulate temperature with a heater, extra blankets, an air-conditioner, a fan, or by opening a window, to allow for an uninterrupted sleep. Constant checking of the time may also cause restlessness or anxiety about sleep. If this is the case, try and move clocks so they’re not readily accessible from the bed.
- Eat at the right time. The digestion of food requires our bodies to be active. With that in mind, it is important to allow enough time for the body to complete this process before going to bed. If an individual tries to sleep immediately after eating, part of their body will be alert and active, hindering the mind’s ability to switch off and rest. Additionally, if someone is too hungry before bed, their brain will emit signals to this effect, also impeding adequate rest.
- Be active during the day. Physical activity is important for good health, but it also plays a role in establishing good sleeping patterns. If we exert ourselves over the course of the day, we will naturally be in need of rest come the evening.
- Avoid screens in the evening. The continual advancement and accessibility of technology has made this one harder and harder to manage, but that does not detract from its importance. The production of melatonin is directly linked to the body’s exposure to light. Too much screen time late in the evening will delay feelings of tiredness, making it harder for a person to get to sleep. Furthermore, research suggests that staying off screens an hour before bed allows a child to gain 21 minutes extra sleep a night. That’s more than 2 extra hours a week!
- Avoid caffeine and other stimulants. This one’s pretty obvious. The purpose of caffeine and other stimulants is to assist people in being alert and awake. A small amount of caffeine might be manageable for an older teen, but as a rule of thumb, it is best avoided in the afternoon and evening in order for the body to naturally prepare itself to switch off. In younger children, caffeine and other stimulants should be minimised as much as possible, if not avoided altogether. It is worth noting that we are not just talking about coffee and energy drinks here; tea, cola and chocolate are also stimulating products.
- Get plenty of sun. As mentioned, the production of melatonin is directly linked to light exposure. Getting plenty of light during the day helps to bind the body clock to the natural cycle of day and night.
Getting your child to sleep can be a hard task and cause a lot of stress on the household during the evening. Follow our tips and restore the peace at bed time!