March 11-17, 2018 is National Sleep Awareness Week. Sleep is a foundation of health and wellness. When they don’t get enough sleep or good quality sleep, children (and adults) cannot function well. Signs your child may not be getting quality sleep:
- Difficulty focusing
- Difficulty following directions
- Difficulty awakening in the morning
- Impaired immune system
- Weight gain
- Impaired detoxification and healing
The amount of sleep that is needed varies by age and individual. In many cases parents don’t realize how much sleep a child needs, so here is a chart to give you some guidance. There is a range because some children need more sleep, while others need less.
Many things can impact the quality and quantity of sleep. Here are the top 5 tips for improving your child’s sleep quality and quantity:
#1 and most important – Establish a sleep routine. These routines help your child’s brain and body prepare for sleep. Go to bed at the same time each night, wake up at the same time in the mornings. Do the same things in the same order before bed – ie bath, book, prayer/meditation. It is never too early to create a sleep routine – beginning in infancy and modifying the routine as your child ages will create a lifetime of good sleep habits.
#2 – Make sleep a priority. Sometimes, the family schedule is so full of things to do, sleep becomes one of the things that is sacrificed in order to get it all done. Really look at what is on the schedule and what is expected of your child, especially adolescents, and see what can be shifted to have sleep be a priority.
#3 – Make it DARK. About 1 hour before bed dim lights. Melatonin is the hormone that helps your body sleep and it is released when it is dark. Lights in the house and bedroom reduce its release, interfering with sleep quantity and quality. Avoid night lights. If your child uses a night light, gradually wean him from using it. Here and here are some tips for getting your child to sleep without a nightlight.
#4 – no electronics within 1 hour of bedtime (ideally 2). Electronic emit blue light that impairs the body’s release of melatonin. The pattern that the light that is emitted from the device (especially TV and video games) is exciting to the brain. If your child must use electronics (ie doing homework/assignments), use blue light filters on your devices. Many cell phones have this as a setting now. For your computer download f.lux.
#5 – Relax. Teach your child relaxation techniques to help them transition from busy to calm. Use Epsom salts in the bath. Add lavender to bath or diffuse it in your child’s room. Try this guided meditation activity.
A note on snoring and sleep apnea: If you have concerns your child snores, especially if you notice pauses in her breathing, schedule an appointment to have this evaluated. Sleep apnea does not typically respond to lifestyle changes above and when corrected can make the world of difference for your child and your family!
Other resources you might enjoy reading:
Sleep Tips for Your Family’s Mental Health
Why your child needs a sleep schedule throughout the summer