How to help your child sleep
There are more and more reports that children aren’t getting enough sleep, resulting in changes in concentration and behaviour at school. This National Children’s Day we’ve teamed with our sleep expert, Dave Gibson, to share his 5 top tips to help your child sleep.
The use of technology is a key area in the current sleep crises for adults and children alike. However, children aren’t going to throw their i-phones away, or stop using social media at night. So establishing appropriate boundaries is a key consideration, with any rules made for one, needing to be maintained for all.
Here are our sleep expert’s top 5 sleep tips.
- Get a consistent bedtime and wake up time
- Relax before bed
- Technology... The battleground
- Bedroom and light
- Keep talking
Our brains love routine, and the first step in the setting up your child for the best possible sleep is to have the same bedtime and wake up time 7 days a week. Of course this may get difficult with weekend lie-ins with teenagers, but get the whole family to adopt these rules and then your children should be able to get there or there abouts.
Having a consistent bedtime routine will also reinforce to the brain that ‘sleep is coming’. Taking a bath or reading a book are often firm favorites. Meditation, breathing exercises, muscle-relaxing techniques, can also help if your child is finding school stressful, especially during exam periods. These will all help your child get ready and settled for bed.
The older the child gets, the more difficult boundaries around technology seem to get, especially as homework is often done on laptops in the bedroom once children get to secondary school. The general rule should be that everyone (children and parents) switch off all technology at least an hour before bed, as blue light and mental stimulation will keep your child awake. Don’t allow mobile phones in any bedroom overnight.
A bedroom should be like a cave, cool, dark and quiet. Getting a good comfortable mattress is also a key component if your child is complaining that they are uncomfortable at night.
The key here is to get your child’s interest and then support and encourage children to work out for themselves what is affecting their sleep (both positively and negatively). Train them to take responsibility for ‘healthy sleep behaviours’. Typical things to check with them are: if they are drinking caffeinated drinks and when; how tired they feel in the morning and at school; and the amount of exercise they get. If sleep is a big issue, get them to create a sleep diary and reward them for making positive changes.
Remember that above all, children learn by copying what they see around them. If parents have poor ‘sleep hygiene’ then the child will do too. One rule for the whole family and leading by example will always get the best results.