Sleep is an essential part of a routine to both kids and adults. Research indicates that children who usually get enough sleep have improved behavior, attention, physical health, overall mental health and memory. Children who get a good night’s sleep are also more creative, able to concentrate longer, have better problem-solving abilities and enough energy to play during the day.
If your child suffers from sleepless nights, below are a few natural, and simple ways that can help them get their nights back on track.
Create an Ideal Sleeping Space
Getting back to sleep at night is a skill to learn, and some children do struggle with it. To deal with this problem, you need to address emotional and physical comfort issues. One of the physical issues to address is ensuring the mattress is supportive. Since children have low body weight, they might feel uncomfortable on a too-firm mattress. Additionally, make sure the room is cool, and as dark as possible to promote deep, restorative sleep. If your child has fears of being alone at night or the dark, try out different methods like stuffed animals for “protection,” or dream catchers to “keep nightmares away.”
Avoid Caffeine and Sugar
Whether it’s getting desert after they eat their vegetables or hot cocoa before bed, caffeine and sugar can be found in many of the foods your child consumes. Try to limit your child’s intake of both caffeine and sugar after 1pm, to allow their body to come down from the stimulating effects of both of these.
Remove screens from the bedroom
Phones, tablets, or televisions in the bedroom disrupt the sleep pattern of your child in two ways. One is that the light emitted on the blue spectrum by any electronic device suppresses the sleep hormones. The sleep cycle is thus delayed when one uses these devices some few minutes before bedtime. The other way is that when these devices are kept in the bedroom, they act as a cause of temptation. Even when the kid is too young to switch on the television, it will still distract his sleep since there is a desire in him to watch.
Consider implementing a screen curfew and taking away any phones or tablets from your child before bed.
Have a bedtime schedule
Most children find it difficult to transition from a state of being alert to a state of rest unless they are uncharacteristically exhausted. A routine will enable them to bring down their energy levels in preparation for rest. This also makes their sleep hormone levels release and regulate at the same time each day.
A simple routine could involve brushing teeth, changing into pajamas, or even listening to a story. It can also include taking a warm bath or picking up toys before going to bed. When your body has a consistent routine, it will learn to prepare itself for what is expected throughout the day. That said, a consistent bedtime routine will signal to the body that the evening is time for rest, allowing those sleep hormones like melatonin to kick in.
If you child struggles with following a routine in the evening or throws nighttime tantrums, try giving them choices. For instance, let them pick out their pajamas or the story they want to read that evening. This will give them a sense of autonomy as well as structure.
Although sleeping through the night can be more challenging to some kids than others, being consistent in the above techniques and efforts will help your child build the foundation for restorative sleep, benefiting them in many aspects of their lives for years to come.
by Guest Writer Stephanie James