Those who know me, know I am passionate about sleep.
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I’m also passionate about children – let’s face it I have to be, I have two of them! But seriously, kids fascinate me – little sponges that soak up every bit of information you throw at them (unless it’s to do with getting ready for school on time or keeping their bedrooms tidy – that kind of info seems to go in one ear and out the other!)
So can you guess where I’m going with this? Yes, I’m very passionate about children’s’ sleep. Sleep is essential for mental, physical health and wellbeing and none more so, for children and teens.
That’s why it is important to set good sleep habits now for children, now. We know that poor sleep habits from an early age can lead to long term sleep problems.
A child that sleeps well is a happier child – and a parent that sleeps well is a happier parent.
Other studies in children and teens have found that:
- adding just one hour of extra sleep decreases the chances of being overweight or obese by around 30%
- sleepless nights has contributed to the rise in teen depression
- up to two-thirds of children do not get enough sleep and have missed out on as much as 4,500 hours by their seventh birthday
- there is a link between lack of sleep and attention deficit hyperactive disorder (ADHD) in children
- an extra hour of sleep a night can boost youngster’s alertness and brainpower
Sleep hygiene is paramount and for a majority of parents and their children, implementing and sticking to a consistent bedroom routine really does work. Kids thrive on routine – and so do us adults– and bedtime should be a positive, calm experience.
As adults we can provide our sleep hygiene tailored to what we need and want, but children can’t. Plus they don’t always understand the importance of sleep so they look to parents to set parameters for switching off gadgets and enforcing appropriate bed times and wind down routine.
Distractions in the bedroom are at the root of many sleep related problems. Screen activity is highly stimulating and the blue light that is emitted from tablets and smartphones interferes with melatonin production. What’s important to remember is that it is not about depriving children of these activities but limiting excessive use, in particular in the hours before bed.
Recent studies have found that children who slept next to devices such as smartphones, tablets etc got 20.6 fewer minutes of sleep on weekdays compared to children who didn’t have them in their bedrooms. Those children were also more likely to say they felt like they hadn’t had enough sleep.
A bed time routine looks something like this (times should be adjusted according to child’s age and bed time):
5.30pm – All screen activities to end, including TV
5.45pm – Plan in hand eye coordination activities – colouring, jigsaws, threading beads etc
6.15pm – Small bedtime supper – crackers and cheese are perfect.
6.30pm – Bathtime
7pm – PJs on and teeth brushed
7.15pm – into bed for a bedtime story
7.30pm – put to bed and say ‘good night’