Why is sleep important for kids?
Sleep is crucial for healthy functioning of everyone’s body, especially as we’re growing! Not only is it when your child’s body is able to rest, which gives them the energy to get up and do what they need to the next day–whether that’s school or clubs or sports or just playing and being a kid–but healthy sleep habits also help to:
- Improve attention
- Boost cognitive function, making learning and memory easier
- Reduce behavioral issues
- Regulate emotions
- Improve health holistically–both mentally and physically
While it may seem your child never tires or runs out of energy, cultivating good sleep hygiene with them is essential for their health. And kids need more sleep than you may think, given their constant energy! Depending on the age of your child, they likely need between 9 and 12 hours of sleep each night.
So what is sleep hygiene?
Sleep hygiene is the habits, behaviors and environment that make up your sleep routine. The time you go to bed, how you get ready for bed, what you do when you’re in bed, how hot or cold or noisy your room is, these are all components of sleep hygiene.
Helping your child develop healthy sleep hygiene habits will help them not only get better sleep right now, but teach them how to maintain that quality sleep throughout their lives by adjusting their routine to match their needs.
How can you help your child develop healthy sleep hygiene habits?
Not everyone’s sleeping habits will be the exact same–all of our bodies are different and while some people may sleep better with white noise, others may be distracted and unable to relax with it. Remember that there are no hard and fast rules, and that the goal is to help your child achieve better, more restful sleep.
With that in mind, here are some basic guidelines on developing healthy sleep hygiene for kids:
Set a regular time to start the bedtime routine:
Bedtime is something many people already set, which is great! However, some of us may be familiar with the idea that “bedtime” is when you brush your teeth and get in bed, lights off no questions asked. And it’s hard to transition into sleep like that! Not only is it strict and makes bed seem a bit like a punishment, it doesn’t give your body time physically and mentally to wind down, slow down, and literally get ready for bed.
Instead of “bedtime” meaning time you need to be in bed, try a bedtime routine start time. No matter what your routine includes, if that’s one final game, reading bedtime stories, singing a bedtime song–whatever it is, that’s when you can start the routine. No mad rush to bed or force to get tired. Keeping it around the same time consistently also helps your body to learn when to start transitioning into bedtime mode, so try to keep your child’s new routine regular!
Create a wind down routine:
Jumping right from homework or TV or whatever they’re playing with to get into their pajamas and brush their teeth and hop in bed isn’t great for helping your little one physically transition into sleep-mode. So, when your bedtime routine starts, add in something to help your child slow down and relax. Maybe let them know they have ten minutes until they need to clean up before their bedtime routine begins so they have time to mentally slow down as well!
This routine doesn’t have to be anything fancy. They can get into their pajamas, brush their teeth, and do whatever it is they find helps them relax. Maybe that’s reading a book, doing some breathing exercises, singing a song with you, etc. You might have to do some trial and error to find what helps them relax before bed.
Consider their bedrooms:
Most people find they have the most restful sleep in dark, quiet and cool rooms. This of course may differ from person to person, but it’s a good place to start! Are there lots of lights in your child’s room that may be keeping them awake? Think of the toys they have, do they light up or make noise? Maybe keep any light up or noise making toys outside of the bedroom, and keep their bedroom toys ones that don’t have the potential to disturb their sleep. Is their a lot of noise coming in from their window? Try a white noise machine to mask it. And then think of the temperature while they’re sleeping–this can be impacted from the location in your home, the temperature you keep your home at, what sort of sheets they have, if their windows are opened or closed, if they have a fan, etc.
If you notice your child is consistently sleeping poorly, there may be underlying stress or emotional issues disrupting their sleep. While you work with them to create a sleeping environment they can thrive in, we can help address any emotional needs they have in therapy. Come talk to us today.