As a parent, you certainly want to make sure your kids have the best things in life.
But any significant improvement — be it better performance in class or a healthier body — requires a steady foundation. And for kids of any age, this foundation is sleep.
Children depend on good sleep even more than adults because its the crucial factor for their growth and development.
So, if you’re looking for useful recommendations on improving sleep for your kid, here you go!
Four Ingredients of Sound Sleep
Now, let’s take a closer look at the main things that make sleep healthy:
Proper duration. Babies and kids need different amounts of sleep, depending on their age. If you don’t want your little one to feel all those negative effects of sleep-deprivation, make sure that he or she is getting enough ZZZ’s based on age.
Absence of interruptions. Ideally, your kid shouldn’t wake up frequently during the night, but it’s not always fully under your control. What you can do, though, is limiting the exposure to possible irritating factors, such as bright light or loud TV.
Perfectly outlined daytime naps. If your kid is at the age of transition to a nap-free stage, do not withdraw naps too abruptly. Skipping a daytime shut-eye may still create a sleep debt and mess with the rest of your child’s daily schedule.
Solid schedule. You need to create a regimen that corresponds with the kid’s circadian rhythm and is acceptable for you as well. Plan all the daily activities and meals and center them around proper sleep.
The best thing is, sleeping well isn’t rocket science. With just a bit of patience and help of the tips below, you can ensure your kid will have a sound shut-eye.
#1 Incorporate Relaxing Rituals
Our brain is very attached to different rituals. Repetitive behavior allows us to overcome anxiety and stress, which results in better performance.
For a kid’s brain, rituals are even more beneficial. Their nervous system quickly becomes agitated, but predictable things can soothe them and trigger the associations you help them develop.
Here are a few examples of soothing rituals for your little one:
Reading bedtime stories. It’s probably the most efficient way to calm a kid up to 9-10 years old. Let them put their favorite pajamas on and spend some time traveling imaginary worlds together.
Drinking warm tea or milk. Drinking something warm has been used for centuries as a way to create a feeling of comfort and calm. That’s exactly what your kid needs after a day full of activities. Besides, milk is incredibly rich in tryptophan, which helps boost the levels of the sleep hormone and ensures a faster drift-off.
Taking a bubble bath. Another ritual to put your kid into a mood for sleep, bathing also teaches them how important it is to give their body proper care. If you want to make the soothing effect more pronounced, add some essential oils to the water.
Don’t forget that waking up is important, too, as our mornings may set the mood for the entire day. So, help your child form positive associations with waking up (e.g. greet them with kind words and have a tasty breakfast together), and in a few days, it will be much easier to get them ready for kindergarten or school.
#2 Switch Off
Gadgets have an incredible impact on sleep.
And when it comes to kids, the effects of smartphones and tablets might be even more adverse.
Colors, bright lights, and popping noises keep the kid’s brain constantly agitated even when he or she simply plays Candy Crush. This, in turn, can lead to unwanted alertness during evening hours, making it a challenge for you to put a child to sleep.
Along with that, phone and tablet screens emit blue light. It has a proven negative effect on melatonin production, which adds up to the alertness and can even lead to insomnia.
The best recommendation here is:
Don’t allow your children to interact with screens at least 1-2 hours before bedtime. Instead, spend more time together, playing quiet games or reading.
#3 Turn a Bedroom into a Cave
Darkness and light are major regulators of our circadian clock. When you create a dark environment in your children’s bedroom, their brain receives a signal that it’s time to sleep and prepares the body for slumber.
So, make sure that there is no bright light around the bed and invest in blackout curtains if you live in a dense urban area.
However, if your kid is afraid of the dark, you can set a dim nightlight on their nightstand. Just be sure to choose the model with adjustable brightness and warm colors, as they aren’t so disruptive as daylight lamps.
#4 Tweak a Diet
Another factor affecting your child’s sleep is their diet. Of course, you probably don’t feed them junk foods and deep-fried snacks, but the meal timing might also be an issue.
Neither eating a full-packed dinner right before bed nor going without food for more than 5 hours will improve sleep quality.
Also, some snacks and treats that are considered harmless — for example, granola bars or chocolate ice-cream — may contain caffeine, which can add up to jitters.
So, cook simple dishes with whole foods and try to set regular intervals between the meals. This will help your kid sleep soundly.
#5 Keep Your Child Active
Children are little energy bombs.
You need to diffuse them, or else they may burst into a sudden tantrum right before bedtime or just may be unable to fall asleep.
The best way to make sure your kid’s energy levels are low is to allow him or her to move a lot. You can hang the Swedish bars in the child’s bedroom or engage them in active playtime daily.
Physical activity will help them spend the energy properly, leaving them naturally tired and sleepy by the evening.