Real Life: Why Sleep Matters
With many of us relaxing our children's bedtime routines during the summer months, starting back at school and having to get up and go to bed earlier can come as quite the shock. For children AND parents. We asked Lisa Artis from The Sleep Council for her advice on crating a healthy sleep routine and how to get children back into their regular bed time routines. Here's what she had to say:
Late nights, long lie ins and days without structure are just some of the joys the summer holidays bring kids - but it also plays havoc with their sleep patterns.
It’s not uncommon to find that the long break disrupts bed and wake up times. However routine is key for a good night’s kip and as your children settle into the new school term, now’s the time to do your homework on bedtimes and sleep routines.
WHY SLEEP MATTERS
Sleep is especially important for children as it directly impacts mental and physical development. Young children need around 10-11 hours sleep a night, older children around nine. Lack of sleep can make children irritable and can lead to mood swings, behavioural problems such as hyperactivity and cognitive problems that affects their ability to learn in school.
Kids need long periods of uninterrupted sleep for optimal growth and development but sleep problems are very common and can have a huge impact on families too. Everybody can benefit from having a good sleep routine – even grown-ups! A good sleep routine needs to be planned well in advance. Consistency and firmness are also key.
Firstly you need to consider what time bedtime will be and then work backwards, planning the hour leading up to it in some detail. If your child isn’t settling until late you may need to gradually move their bedtime as previously described, the routine will need to be gradually moved too.
It’s important to have a proper wind down routine where toys or any electronic items are put away and they have a bath, a warm milky drink and read a book. This gets children relaxed and ready for bed. Make sure that the bed is comfy and welcoming too and never send kids to bed if they’re being naughty! The bedroom should be a place where children feel relaxed, not anxious or scared.
TOP TIPS TO HELP YOU AND YOUR CHILD ESTABLISH A HEALTHY SLEEP ROUTINE
Children like to know things so don’t be afraid talk to them about the importance of a good night’s sleep in words they understand i.e. tell them sleeping well makes them run faster, do sums more quickly etc.
Encourage regular exercise – outdoor play, bike rides or trampolining. Using up all their energy during the day will help children to sleep better at night.
Reduce caffeine such as coke and other fizzy drinks, and even chocolate
Try and get them into a routine – doing things in the same order (pjs on, tooth brushing, story) before going to bed at night is key to winding down.
Baths are great if your child finds them relaxing. However, if they are fearful of them or get over-excited they may not help contribute to a positive bedtime routine. Ideally a bath should take place 30 minutes before bedtime as this aids relaxation by increasing the body temperature. It is the slow decrease in body temperature once you get out of the bath that then helps us to feel more relaxed and nod off more easily.
Make sure the bedroom is tech free, or alternatively create separate zones for sleep and play. In particular, make sure any gadgets and even the TV are turned off an hour before bedtime as it can cause difficulties in calming down. Encourage more relaxing activities such as drawing, colouring or jigsaws.
Create a restful sleeping environment – a room that is dark, cool, quiet, safe and clutter free. Keep their toys in a separate room to avoid clutter, or make sure you’ve got some nifty bedroom storage where toys can be hidden away come bedtime. Blackout curtains can also be helpful, especially during the lighter summer months.
Make sure their bed is comfortable and that it is big enough for them as they grow. The right mattress is vital as it provides the correct support for growing bones and muscles.
Thank you to Lisa for sharing these valuable tips with us. If you'd like more information on getting a better night's sleep, visit The Sleep Council.
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