Getting enough sleep was challenging even before the pandemic. With disrupted routines, extra screen time, and the incredible amount of stress most people face now, sleep quality seems to have gone quickly really low. Kids are suffering especially hard.
The average kid has a pretty stressful day. Especially now, because the routine is disrupted and everything that used to be normal is changed for a while. Sleep allows the body to rest for the next day. Sleep plays a significant role in the development of young brains. In addition to having a direct impact on happiness, research shows that sleep affects attention span, mood, cognitive abilities, resilience, and memory. Sleep also has significant effects on growth.
So how can you support your child to sleep better?
Most children thrive on the structure because the predictability of routine offers a sense of control. A shortage of predictability can feel unsettling for children and raise the risk for anxiety and worry. Anxiety is not only problematic for daytime well-being, but can also increase problems with sleep.
Many kids don’t have regular school right now, so they don’t need to wake up at the exact time every morning. But actually routine is crucial so the body could rest adequately. It would be best to help and encourage your kid to go to bed at the same time every evening; this helps their body get into a routine – thus sleep better and be better at being awake.
Wind-down before bed
Do relaxing, wind-down activities at least an hour before bedtime that stay away from screens. Try reading together, doing a puzzle or even telling stories for younger kids. Older kids can try writing or creating a bedtime ritual like journaling down things they’re grateful for from the day. These activities typically stop our minds from racing in different directions from the day.
Keep the screens out before bedtime
The blue light that screens emit can tell your brain that it’s time to be awake — the exact opposite of what we want before bedtime. Not only should kids stop using their phones or screens an hour or so before bedtime, it’s best to keep them out of the room in order to reduce temptation to use them, but also to reduce the emitted light that keeps the room from being fully dark. That means laptops, tablets, gaming systems and yes, cellphones.
In my experience, although putting phones away can be a disappointment at first, many older kids find they feel liberated, more mindful and get much better sleep when their phones are left on the dining table and they don’t pick them up until after breakfast.
Create sleep inducing environment
In addition to eliminating devices, setting up the room just right can play a significant role in the quality of sleep you get. You want it to be cozy, inviting, and safe. Try keeping your child’s favourite stuffed animals, toys, or a symbol of something soothing nearest to their bedside. The room should be as dark as possible, and the temperature should be cooler. You can diffuse some sleep-inducing lavender essential oil to help kids fall asleep faster. You can even use a diffuser as a suitable mild light in the room if your kid doesn’t like a fully dark room.
If your child really struggles with restless sleep or falling asleep takes long, you can use a weighted blanket. These special blankets, are designed to distribute the feeling of a deep-pressure touch evenly across the body, which can help little ones who may have difficulty sleeping or falling asleep.
Model good habits for your kids
As with most things parenting-related, practicing what you preach not only reinforces the message, it shows your kids what to do. By implementing the same techniques that you expect of them, it becomes a family activity. Choose some nightly rituals as a family, like screen-free reading time after dinner, or playing a guided meditation and following it together.
The brain is one of our most precious assets, and as with any precious asset, there are ways to take care of it and nurture it so that it can do its job best. And, it all starts — and ends — with sleep.