You’re feeling sleepy..
Sleep is essential to our health and well being, for allowing our bodies to repair, grow and to allow our minds to rest. It’s particularly important for our children who continue to grow and develop every day.
Under eye bags, forgetfulness, nodding off during meetings at work, becoming snappy, feeling unwell and shares in the local coffee shop are often signs of a sleep deprived adult!
Children who are not getting enough sleep will display similar symptoms, (apart from the caffeine addiction), becoming irritable, sleeping at inappropriate times, unable to get up for school, behavioural issues, hyperactivity, difficulty concentrating and even a lowered immune system. Sounds pretty similar to the adult symptoms right?
We can all reap the benefits of a good sleep routine. In this day and age of wonderful technology, many of us have forgotten how to switch off in the evening and are still checking our social media as our eyelids are closing!
So how can we help our children get a better night’s sleep?
- Decide on when bedtime will be – once you know this you can work out where to fit everything else in! You may need to adjust this if your child settles earlier or later.
- At least an hour before bedtime, turn off any screens and devices your child may be using/watching.
- Create a darker environment by dimming lights and closing curtains. This will help start those sleep hormones.
- Now is the time to do quiet, relaxing activities with your child – puzzles, colouring in– anything that won’t overstimulate your child.
- A bath can be a great way to help a child relax before bed. Make sure it’s about 30 minutes prior to bedtime and calm, no excitable bath time activities.
- Follow the same bedtime routine each night, including the order you do things for example clean teeth, putting on pyjamas etc. Your child will learn that these things mean it’s time to sleep.
- If your child struggles to understand what needs to be done think about making a visual timetable. This is just pictures of what you expect of your child and in what order. This will help them to understand what will be happening.
- Once in bed, take this time to read to your child. Be clear that it will be one short book or 5 pages, for example. Stick to this boundary!
- Give your child kisses and tell them it’s time to go to sleep now.
- Tempting as it can be to let your child watch a DVD in bed, this will only stimulate their minds and make it more difficult for them to switch off. Even if they do fall asleep, the background noise of TV can still be disturbing.
- Try not to use the bedroom as a negative place. Don’t send your child there if you have told them off or asking them to have ‘time out’. This will mean they may associate the bedroom as a ‘bad’ place and will then not want to sleep there.
- Make sure the room is not too hot or cold. The ideal room temperature is 16-20°C
As with anything with children, being consistent and sticking to boundaries is really important. Children like to feel secure and consistency gives them this. However, there may be times when they are disrupted from routine; if they are unwell, changes in the home, such as a new baby, teething etc.
Some parents let their children fall asleep downstairs and then carry them up to bed or they will lay with their children whilst they drop off. Although this may seem like a good idea, it is important to let your child learn to soothe themselves to sleep so that if they wake in the night they will be able to go back to sleep.
Remember that when starting any new routine with your children it can take time to work, be patient and stick with it.
If you have any further concerns about your child’s sleeping habits, then please seek advice from your health visitor or GP.
Thanks to Thanet Children’s Centres for this article detailing how we can all have a better nights sleep.
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