Getting a good night’s sleep is vital to everyday functioning, but it is even more so for kids. It can help children to fight off illness, have energy and promotes general well being. When sleeping, your little ones are mentally and physically developing, regularising hormones and much more. Without a working sleeping routine, children will not reap all the important benefits. Sleep is in fact, as important as nutrition and exercise.
That is all well and good, but how do you actually get your kids to have a decent night’s sleep when it’s difficult enough to get them in their pyjamas?
We have some top tips and expert advice from Will, the founding teacher at Beeja Meditation in London, who has input on ensuring your child/children have a better night’s sleep. He wants to help create a healthier, happier, world, and sleep makes everything better, right?
A regular bedtime routine is essential for children. It encourages good sleeping patterns and helps them to get a beneficial nights sleep. Doing the same things in the same order each night at the same time (even on weekends) maintains the body’s internal clock, meaning they will fall asleep and wake up easier.
The amount of sleep your little one will need will change as they get older. To find out how much sleep your child will approximately need, check out the NHS advice here. This will help you decide the evening schedule, including bath time, book time and bedtime. A warm (not hot) bath will help to relax your child and get them ready for a good night’s sleep.
A television screen, phone or computer monitor can interfere with the production of the sleep hormone, melatonin. This hormone is vital for a good night’s sleep and assists with sleep-wake cycles.
When melatonin levels are at their highest, that’s when you would feel the sleepiest, and just ready for bed. Even half an hour of TV or other screen time before bed can disrupt the production of melatonin and keep your child up for an extra two or more hours. Even bright light directly inhibits the release of melatonin. That’s why it is often called the ‘Dracula of hormones’.
Make the bedroom a screen-free zone, or make sure that there are no screens from bedtime onwards!
Sure, a cuddly toy can make it easier for your child to sleep, but the surrounding environment is much more than that. Soft sheets, room-darkening shades and a quiet room can help children to differentiate between day and night, awake and sleep time. Be sure to make for a relaxing and melatonin-inducing atmosphere. Your child won’t feel relaxed or sleepy in a bright room with loud music or a TV blaring.
Temperature can also help. Melatonin levels help to regulate the drop of internal body temperature needed to sleep, but you can help to control the external temperature. Be sure to not have the heat too high; room temperature or a little cooler is the best environment to promote a good night’s sleep.
Shutting off Imagination
Kids don’t just have trouble shutting their brains off for the night, they also have trouble shutting off their imagination. Instead of dismissing bedtime fears of monsters under the bed or the boogie monster in the cupboard, try to address them.
First of all, reassure your children that everything is fine and there are no monsters, however, if this doesn’t work, you may need to get creative. You could buy a special guard which stands on guard at night or a ‘special spray’ that keeps away the monsters at bedtime. A dim ‘monster night-light’ could also help.
Instead of insisting that it’s time to sleep, use the focus of relaxation and ‘chilling out’ rather than bedtime.
As adults, stress and worrying keep us up at night, but the same hormone that plays this part also affects children. It is known as cortisol or the ‘stress hormone’.
When cortisol levels are high, your child’s body will find it harder to shut down and go to sleep. This means before bed, keep activities calm, lights dim, quiet environment and no stressful activities. Try to avoid homework just before bed or anything which could raise stress levels. This will help to avoid excessive amounts of cortisol in your child’s system. The routine you have set (in step 1) should help to avoid any possible stressful incidents.
The most common causes of stress include big changes in family life (such as divorce or a new sibling), parental instability, academic pressure, overly-packed schedules, bullying, popularity and even TV shows, books and the news. Be sure to keep an eye out for signs of anxiety and stress in your child.
Will Williams. Founder of Beeja Meditation says that practising meditation can calm the nervous system and assist in resetting circadian rhythms:
“First of all, meditation is an amazing way to calm down the nervous system, which is often very hyped up in children and causes them to struggle to get to sleep, or to wake up in the middle of the night.
Daily meditation can also help to reset your child’s daily circadian rhythms so that their body knows when it is supposed to be asleep. Extensive screen time often disrupts our circadian rhythms, meaning that our body doesn’t even know when to regulate the release of melatonin.
Meditation is also incredible at helping children and adults alike process lots of emotion, meaning that we are less prone to horrible nightmares, which is one of the bodies’ fallback strategies when we have an overload of unprocessed emotion.”
Your child’s wellbeing is a priority. Whilst there are no hard rules for bedtime and every child is different, it’s important to find a routine that works for you and your family, and more importantly, stick to it. A well-rested child makes for a happy child and a happy family! Happy zzz’ing!