Lisa Artis, sleep advisor from The Sleep Council shares some expert tips for getting your children back into healthy bedtime routine ahead of returning to school after the holidays.
Why is sleep so important for children?
Firstly, because it directly impacts on their mental and physical development.
Sleep is essential for memory consolidation and learning and for internalising the day’s activities. A lack of sleep or poor-quality sleep interrupts this process and has a negative impact on a child’s development.
Additionally, sleep helps our bodies to repair and regenerate, preparing it for the next day’s activities. Without time to repair, physical development can be stunted.
Unfortunately, sleep isn’t taken as seriously as it should be. If a child’s development was suffering due to a lack of food or nutrition, we’d naturally be horrified and would act on this immediately, but the same can’t be said for sleep deprivation.
As any parent knows, lack of sleep has a severe negative impact on a child’s mood and behaviour. If your child hasn’t had enough sleep, this can result in mood swings, irritability and counter-intuitively; hyperactivity. All of this can reduce a child’s concentration levels and lead to poor performance in the classroom.
How much sleep do children need?
As a rule of thumb:
- Under 3s: Around 12 hours sleep per night
- 4-6-year old: 10.5-11.5 hours sleep per night
- 6-12-year old: Around 10 hours
- Teenagers: 8-9 hours
With return to school looming around the corner, its time to get your children back into a school-friendly sleeping routing.
Ideally, you want to start a transitional routine about a week to 10 days before they go back to school. You can do this by bringing bedtime 10-15 minutes closer to the norm, every 2 days until your back to a healthy and development promoting bedtime.
Trouble Getting to Sleep?
Kids thrive on routines, doing the same thing every night acts as a prompt to the body and the mind that it’s time to sleep soon and beings to wind down.
If you give your children snacks or supper, swap the sweets and chocolate for no-sugar cereal or some wholemeal toast.
A good routine could look like this:
Ditch the blue light devices
As you get closer to bed time, ideally an hour before, you want to ditch smartphones, tablets and TVs as they not only stimulate the brain and make children more awake, but the blue light from these devices suppresses the production of melatonin, a hormone which is responsible for the sleepy feeling and acts a prompt that we’re ready to sleep.
Introduce a less physically stimulating game or activity (colouring, jigsaws) which will keep them entertained, but will also let their minds start to relax.
Shortly before bed, a warm relaxing bath can signal that it’s time to start winding down. You can improve the effectiveness of your baths by adding some magnesium flakes or magnesium soak to the bath. Magnesium is known to help relax muscles and so is perfect for preparing the body for sleep. Alternatively, you could use a Sleep Lotion or Spray after the bath, which contain chamomile and lavender to help relax the mind.
Once they’re out of the bath and dried, dim the lights, get dress into their pyjamas followed by brushing their teeth.
Following this, pop them in bed and (still with dimmed lights) read them a story.
This routine gives the body multiple sensory cues to let it know that it’s time for bed. Stick to it, or something similar and soon your little ones will be nodding off with ease.
You can watch the video of the Q&A below: