Set Good Sleep Habits For Children NOW!

Those who know me, know I am passionate about sleep.

I’m also passionate about children – let’s face it I have to be, I have two of them! But seriously, kids fascinate me – little sponges that soak up every bit of information you throw at them (unless it’s to do with getting ready for school on time or keeping their bedrooms tidy – that kind of info seems to go in one ear and out the other!)

So can you guess where I’m going with this? Yes, I’m very passionate about children’s’ sleep. Sleep is essential for mental, physical health and wellbeing and none more so, for children and teens.

It’s also about setting good sleep habits for the future – we know that poor sleep habits from an early age can lead to long term sleep problems.

Other studies in children and teens have found that:
– adding just one hour of extra sleep decreases the chances of being overweight or obese by around 30% – sleepless nights has contributed to the rise in teen depression
– up to two-thirds of children do not get enough sleep and have missed out on as much as 4,500 hours by their seventh birthday
– there is a link between lack of sleep and attention deficit hyperactive disorder (ADHD) in children
– an extra hour of sleep a night can boost youngster’s alertness and brainpower

I recently attended a three-day Sleep Practitioners course run by the lovely folk over at The Children’s Sleep Charity, who work tirelessly to get children (and their parents) to sleep better.

The course reinforced the message that sleep hygiene is paramount and that for a majority of parents and their children, implementing and sticking to a consistent bedroom routine really does work. Kids thrive on routine – adults do, too – and bedtime should be a positive, calm experience.

As adults we can provide our sleep hygiene tailored to what we need and want, but children can’t. Plus they don’t always understand the importance of sleep so they look to parents to set parameters for switching off gadgets and enforcing appropriate bed times and wind down routines.

Distractions in the bedroom are at the root of many sleep related problems. Screen activity is highly stimulating and the blue light that is emitted from tablets and smartphones interferes with melatonin production.

What’s important to remember is that it is not about depriving children of these activities but limiting excessive use, in particular in the hours before bed. Recent studies have found that children who slept next to devices such as smartphones, tablets etc got 20.6 fewer minutes of sleep on weekdays compared to children who didn’t have them in their bedrooms. Those children were also more likely to say they felt like they hadn’t had enough sleep.

A bed time routine looks something like this (times should be adjusted according to bed time) – remember this isn’t set in stone!

5.30pm – all screen activities to end including TV
5.45pm – plan in hand eye coordination activities – colouring, jigsaws, threading beads etc
6.15pm – Small bedtime supper – crackers and cheese are perfect.
6.30pm – Bathtime (if children enjoy it)
7pm – PJs on and teeth brushed
7.15pm – into bed for a bedtime story
7.30pm – put to bed and say ‘good night’

One Response to Set Good Sleep Habits For Children NOW!

  1. Ashley February 21, 2016 at 4:03 pm #

    I am a mother of a almost two year old girl and now I feel really guilty about our sleep routine. I knew of the importance of sleep. Not just for children but for all of us, and of its benefits for our health and just being able to function. However I had no idea that there is a link between being overweight and not getting enough sleep, or ADHD. We are going to have to make some changes to our sleep routine as right now we usually have the television on well after we should so that it won’t effect our sleep, a lot of times falling asleep with it still on. We also don’t set a very good example when it comes to using tablets and our phones near bedtime. Both myself and her father both use these devices in bed, sometimes right up until falling asleep. I had no idea that the light they emit effects our levels of melatonin production. So not only are they keeping me up because I am on it exploring useless website after another or playing some stupid game, but it is also keeping me up because it is changing my brain chemistry. That is somewhat of a scary realization. Now after reading this I can’t help but to wonder if childhood obesity is so rampant with the increased amount of screen time for not only taking away from physical activity that they may have otherwise engaged in, but also because it is changing their sleep and affecting them from multiple angles. I know that I am definitely going to be implementing a better sleep routine for our daughter and myself as well.

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