We often take great care to ensure our children build good personal hygiene habits such as brushing their teeth and bathing. But do we pay as much attention to our children’s sleep hygiene? As adults, we easily recognize the benefits of a good night’s sleep for ourselves, and certainly we want the same for our children. Sleep has an important restorative role to play and it is critical for healthy growth and development. Proper sleep can also help prevent health problems now and in the future.
It is important to understand your child’s sleep needs and identify potential sleep problems early. Children need an ample amount of sleep to ensure that they are energized and have the ability to excel at the activities they enjoy.
If you are concerned about your children’s quality of sleep, you may notice the following signs1:
• Falling grades in school
• Poor self esteem
• Either low or excessive appetite
• Headaches or migraines
• Hyperactive behaviour
• Difficulties with attention
As a family, there are ways to build in good habits into your nightly routine to help your children get better sleep.
The Encyclopedia on Early Child Development recommends the following tips for good sleep hygiene in children2:
Tip 1: A child’s bedroom should be a safe, secure, and quiet sleeping environment: Consider distancing electronics and devices away from the bed or keeping them out of the bedroom entirely.
Tip 2: Establish a bedtime routine: It is important to provide a short and consistent routine for children before bed. A good routine will relax the child and encourage sleep. The routine should be carried out in the child’s bedroom and should take place 15 to 30 minutes before bedtime. It is recommended that the routine is predictable and consistent. Also be sure that there is a set bedtime.
Tip 3: Keep a regular schedule: The bedtime routine and schedule should be followed every day, with the routine continued on weekends.
Tip 4: Teaching a child to fall asleep alone: When a child is older (over six months) the parent can slowly remove themselves from their bedside, allowing the child to grow accustomed to sleeping on their own.
Tip 5: Encouraging daytime activities that help a child sleep at night: Exercise can help or hinder sleep depending on the time of the day that activity took place. Exercise during the day will help the child fall asleep at night, whereas exercise close to bedtime may cause sleep onset insomnia. Ideally, exercise should stop two to three hours before bedtime.
Getting a good night’s sleep is important for everyone. But, like many good habits, it’s important to start at an early age. With the new school year approaching, creating a routine now is one of the easiest ways to make good sleep hygiene a long-lasting practice for your children.
For more tips on maintaining sleep hygiene, visit your chiropractor.
References 1University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. “Kids and Sleep.” https://www.google.ca/url?sa=t&rct=j&q=&esrc=s&source=web&cd=25&ved=0ahUKEwi-6YT69eHMAhUEdD4KHTW1Dcs4FBAWCDIwBA&url=https%3A%2F%2Fsleephygiene.web.unc.edu%2Ffiles%2F2012%2F12%2FKids-and-Sleep1.pptx&usg=AFQjCNFXJtjwqYtArTh8BBKH5XEhO79xTw 2Shelly Weiss. “Tips for Parents: Prevention and Management of Sleep Problems.” May 10, 2010. https://www.child-encyclopedia.com/Pages/PDF/WeissANGxp.pdf