Tired and cranky? 5 tips for helping your kids have a good night's sleep
According to experts, we are slap bang in the middle of a sleep crisis.
Screens, stress, our general hectic lifestyles, none of us are getting enough shuteye these days, and those absolutely most affected are children.
If expert guidelines were to be adhered to, kids aged three to five should be getting 10 to 13 hours of sleep a night, and six- to 12-year-olds should sleep between nine and 12 hours every night.
However, this is not happening, and according to a recent poll in Canada, 31 percent of school-aged kids are sleep-deprived and are getting 30 minutes to an hour less rest each night than kids were a decade ago. Worryingly, the report also showed that one-third of school-aged kids have trouble falling or staying asleep at least some of the time.
What's to blame? Lifestyle, says experts.
"Things like not having regular household routines, not reinforcing bedtimes and screen use—not just in the evening but during the day—all affect sleep,” explains Wendy Hall, a registered nurse and sleep expert at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, to Today's Parent.
Luckily – making some effective changes doesn't need to be too complicated. Here are five easy ways help your children have a better night's sleep – which will hopefully kick-start some better sleep habits for the entire family too:
1. Cut back on screens
Look, we all knew this one was coming.
According to a study published in Pediatrics in November 2017, researchers found that children and adolescents are particularly vulnerable to sleep disruptions caused by screens. We know the blue light stops us feeling tired at the right time as adults, and to children, with their still-developing eyes and brains, the light that is emitted sees twice the drop in the sleep hormone melatonin compared to in adults. What this means, then, is that children and teenagers are far more likely to have poorer quality sleep and and less sleep when exposed to lights from screens.
2. Be strict about games
Just like with screen time in general, video games are bad news for our sleep – and even worse for our children's sleep. A 2007 study published in Pediatrics showed that kids who played just one hour of video games before bed showed significant sleep disruption. And look – no-one is saying ban games completely. Just make sure that your child isn't playing them in the last few hours before bedtime.
3. Adapt a relaxing bedtime routine
Routines are safe and soothing, and creating a bedtime routine designed to help your children wind down before bed will no doubt pay off. Bath time, pj's and a story are all lovely ways to end your day, and because children thrive with predictable routines, you will notice their sleep improving pretty instantly.
4. Eat smart
Going to bed hungry is not ideal, but do make sure you serve your children the right food before bedtime. Certain foods help us feel more relaxed and help our body wind down for the night. Oatmeal with milk, or toast with natural peanut butter are both great choices, as both form amino acids that act like tryptophan, a chemical that makes you feel sleepy. Other foods that are good for sleep include warm milk, bananas and kiwis.
5. Turn the lights off
Ideally, we should all be sleeping in complete darkness in order for our sleep hormone to do its thing. This is even more important to children, who are more affected by light pollution than adults are. In the last hour before bedtime, turn off bright overhead lights, use your dimmer switches and maybe even try to find an alternative to using the bright lights in the bathroom.
If your children should need a night light, try to put this out in the hallway outside their bedroom or at least on floor level, so that the light isn't shining directly into their eyes.