Getting a good night’s sleep is important to maintain health and wellbeing, although ensuring this happens isn’t always easy – especially for children.
Making sure that kids get enough rest is a crucial part of their development, but many parents face a constant battle to get their young ones to sleep at night.
However, there are numerous things you can implement to help your children sleep better – read on to find out more.
Create a bedtime routine
Having a bedtime routine helps to establish a pattern that your children will become accustomed to. Setting a consistent time for their evening bath, supper and bedtime story will signal to your child that these things are a normal part of their day.
Knowing what is happening at specific times can be relaxing and comforting to a child, hopefully preventing the arguments that a disrupted schedule can often bring. Your child’s body may even automatically start to become tired at the beginning of their routine, making it easier to get them to sleep at the allotted time.
Set a sensible time for bed
There can be variance in the amount of sleep people need, but school-age children generally need between a minimum of 8-9 hours of sleep each night. Some children are prone to getting up early, even if you put them to bed later, while a night owl may find it difficult to get to sleep until their body is ready.
Know how much sleep your child needs to wake up refreshed and set a bedtime that suits their individual body clock. It also makes sense to keep a consistent wake-up time. Allowing your child a weekend lie-in might seem tempting, but you’ll pay the price for that disruption during the week.
Buy the best mattress
Mattress technology has developed significantly over the last few years and there are plenty of things for parents to consider before buying one for their children. There are so many different styles, makes and models of mattresses, that many consumer groups won’t make specific recommendations.
However, if you’re planning to get a better mattress for your children the size and firmness are two of the main considerations. Bear in mind that you will want the new mattress to last, so think about what will be best for your kids in the future. If your children are a little older, get them involved in the buying process so they feel excited about the sleep process.
Put the technology away
Research has shown that the light from a television screen, mobile phone, laptop or tablet can interfere with the quality of sleep. The blue light emitted by devices hinders the production of melatonin, the hormone that controls your sleep cycle. A reduction in melatonin makes it harder to fall and stay asleep.
It is advisable to make sure that your children get at least 30 minutes of gadget-free transition time before sleep to ensure that their minds get the chance to unwind. Keeping a mobile phone near the bed is also not recommended, as late night texts or social media notifications can be disruptive when a child is supposed to be getting to sleep.
To get a better night’s rest limit your kids’ technology use in the bedroom, and parents can set an example by doing the same.
Introduce calm before bedtime
Another hormone that factors in to sleep is cortisol - also known as the ‘stress hormone’. When cortisol levels are high, a child’s body won’t be able to shut down and they will struggle to get to sleep. Keeping bedtime activities calm, the lights dim and the environment quiet will reduce the amount of cortisol in your child’s system.
Soft sheets, room-darkening curtains and a relaxed ambience will help your child differentiate between day and night, also making it easier to fall asleep.
Keep the temperature regulated
Ensuring the temperature is comfortable in the bedroom helps children get a restful night’s sleep. Open a window if it is safe to so, adjust the thermostat and heaters in the room or use air conditioning where needed. Melatonin levels play their part in regulating the drop of internal body temperature needed to sleep, but you can help by controlling the external temperature.
Generally speaking the suggested bedroom temperature should be between 15 and 19 degrees centigrade for optimal sleep. If the room is cool, rather than warm, it will be much easier for children to shut their eyes for the night.
Ensure children get enough exercise
Taking regular exercise improves people’s general wellbeing, but it also helps use up the energy you've stored from eating and aids your sleep. It's important that children get plenty of exercise during the day, which will help them wind down faster at night.
However, keep their vigourous exercise at least three hours before bedtime or they may still be too stimulated for sleep when bedtime comes around.
Be on the lookout for sleep disorders
If you've implemented all of the factors detailed above and your child is still having difficulties with sleeping, he or she may have a sleep disorder.
Monitor your child's sleep pattern and how they function during the day. If they are over-tired, have difficulty concentrating on school work or have problems with behaviour, it could be a sign of an underlying issue.
If you think your child may have a sleep disorder, the first step is to visit your family’s doctor to discuss the matter. Surgery to remove tonsils and/or adenoids may be necessary or a sleep study may need to be performed. Alternatively, the problem may go away on its own, but it’s better to be safe than sorry.
It’s not easy, but making sure your children get enough sleep is one of the most important things you can do for them.
There are no set rules for the perfect bedtime and every child is different, but building a routine, investing in a better mattress and creating a comfortable sleep environment will help your children get the rest they need to live happy and healthy lives.