Sleep is important for children of all ages; lack of sleep can cause mood changes such as low concentration, grumpiness and low productivity, as well as pose health risks such as obesity. Children require more sleep than adults as it is vital to their mental and physical growth and development. The amount of sleep needed varies depending on age; newborns require 14-17 hours of sleep per day, this then decreases as they get older. Between 1-2 years 11-14 hours is advised, at 3-5 years 10-13 hours per day, 6-13 years 9-11 hours per day and between the ages of 14-17, 8-10 hours are required. Hectic or stressful bedtime routines are ultimately counterproductive and end with children going to bed wound up. This can then lead to delayed and possibly interrupted sleep meaning less time for essential growth and development. Here are six tips to ensure a stress-free bedtime for all:
Having a routine in place in means your child knows what to expect, which ultimately reduces stress as bedtime approaches. By having the same routine every night, each action starts to become associated with sleep. For example, if the first step is a bath, bath time will become associated with bedtime; helping your child to feel sleepy as the routine begins. Having a pre-sleep routine also means that they have chance to relax and adjust to the idea of sleep, making it less of a shock as this can be what sometimes causes the stress.
- Bedtime stories
Reading a bedtime story is great for many reasons; whether it involves you reading or, if you child is older, reading their own. It is an opportunity for them to lay in bed, cosy and prepare for sleep. The soothing nature of being told a bedtime story, or reading one, is sleep inducing in itself but often children find being read to extremely comforting and it is a great boding time for parent and child. Sometimes the reason children protest bedtime so much is because they want to spend more time with you, therefore knowing that you spend the time reading together will help them drift off peacefully.
- Bath time
Bath time is usually the first step in a bedtime routine, and this is perfect. Having a bath as the step allows you time to cool down afterwards, this then kick starts the sleep cycle. When our bodies prepare for sleep our core body temperature drops. Stepping out of a warm bath kick starts this process so that by the time they get into bed they will be ready for sleep.
Children like to be in control, this can be a common issue as they get older and want to dictate their own bedtime. To allow them choice in their bedtime routine can help the process run smoothly from a young age. Start by letting them pick which pyjamas they wear, or which book to read. As they get older, allow them to negotiate their bedtime, settling on one you are both happy with.
- No screens
Limiting screen time before bed is essential for a quality night’s sleep and should reduce stress at bedtime, as it means they are less likely to be wide awake. The blue light emitted from phones, tablets and TV’s supresses melatonin production; the hormone which starts the sleep cycle. Blue light can make it harder to get to and stay asleep.
- Sleepy environment
Having the right sleep environment is another essential component of a stress-free bedtime. Having a welcoming environment means they are more likely to want to go to bed. Make sure your child is comfortable and happy in their bed. Children’s beds should be a place they feel both comfy and at ease, if they are not getting enough sleep it may be worth thinking about investing in a new mattress and bed. Keep the room dark, with a nightlight if necessary, to help regulate the circadian rhythm. Make sure to keep it cool as a cooler body temperature is optimum for sleep and even add some aromatherapy oils to their bedding or in a diffuser; lavender is great for inducing sleep.
Taking these steps at bedtime will help to reduce stress, ensuring that your child gets a quality night’s sleep and that bedtime runs as smooth as possible for both of you.