The Busy Parent’s Guide to Helping Your Child Wind Down
Sleep is an essential part of establishing a healthy lifestyle for everyone including children. Studies show that children who receive sufficient amounts of sleep, have improved focus & attention, improved behaviour, increased learning rates and improvements to both mental & physical health.
Helping children of all ages to fall asleep and stay asleep is a challenge for many parents however. Every individual child and family requirements are different, so it is important to be flexible and have fun whilst discovering the patterns that will work for your family.
Experiment with a combination of these techniques as you put together your own formula for success!
Steps to Take During the Day
1. Seek out natural light
Even though we’re surrounded with electric lights, our bodies are still attuned to the sun. Exposure to natural light is thought to help your brain to release serotonin, which boosts mood and helps with focus and clarity. Open the curtains to give your child exposure to morning light and spend at least a half hour outdoors during each day.
2. Engage in physical activity
Exercise promotes restful sleep, with studies suggesting that regular, moderate exercise can not only improve sleep quality, but also reduce the time it takes to fall asleep. Encourage sports, games, and active playtime. Riding bikes, scooters or throwing a ball around, are other great options.
3. Maintain a regular schedule
It’s harder to come to a complete stop when you’ve been rushing around all day, so pace yourself and your child by slowly winding down throughout the evening.
4. Reduce environmental irritants
Chemicals and allergens often interfere with sleep. Choose fresh bedding, comfortable sleep wear and clear away any dust, stuffiness or pet hair.
Steps to Take at Night
1. Set a consistent bedtime
Maintaining a regular sleep schedule helps to train your brain to feel tired at bedtime. Aim to have your child go to bed and rise at the same time every day. Stick to a similar schedule on weekends and school holidays.
2. Provide advance notice
Older children will understand a warning that it’s 10 minutes until lights out. Babies start responding to non-verbal cues like running bath water and putting on pajamas.
3. Turn off tech
Artificial light in TV, phones and tablets stimulate our brains. Give your kids notice to turn off all devices a couple of hours before bed. Avoiding this artificial light source and encouraging darker lighting allows the brain to trigger melatonin, which helps control your sleep cycle.
4. Read at bedtime
Story time for younger children creates a great transition for sleep, can help bonding with your child, improve literary skills and instill a general love for learning. Independent reading is also advantageous for older children and adults too, as reading is a known stress reliever, allowing the brain to "shut off" and be lost in another world.
5. Develop other bedtime rituals
Warm baths and soft music add up to a soothing atmosphere. Throw in a teddy bear or stuffed bunny for overnight company. Any monotonous sound, such as white noise, a fan or ocean and rain sounds can also hasten sleep.
6. Warm up - but not too warm
Warmth is also conducive to happy dreams, with rooms that are too hot, cold or draughty impacting on REM sleep in particular. Give your child comfortable bedding to snuggle in, with bedroom temperatures of about 16-18°C usually being comfortable for most people.
What can you do to change your own family bedtime routine? Get your child off to an early start with good sleep habits and a positive attitude about bedtime and your whole family will enjoy better rest and better health.