Helping your child sleep well
There has been great concern expressed recently by scientists and psychologists that many children could be suffering from severe sleep deprivation. Research indicates that this may be caused by over-stimulation from a range of sources including artificial lights, electronic devices and televisions often placed in children’s bedrooms.
Keep your child's bedtime routine around half an hour to help promote his sleep hormone, melatonin.
Darkness and a coolness help to promote sleepiness so keep your child's bedroom cool and keep all electrical devices out.
Avoid giving your child food or drinks containing caffeine as will keep him awake.
Tryptophan rich foods like turkey and porridge can help to promote melatonin production and sleepiness.
Sleep deprivation has a number of negative outcomes for children, including irritability, anxiety and ultimately poor performance at school. It is thought that children aged up to five years old may be losing as much as two hours sleep per week and children aged up to ten years could be losing up to four hours per week.
Bedtime routines for children
- A sleep routine is really a series of gentle sleep cues that you and your child follow every night, in the same order. Your child will soon start to recognise that they’re preparing for bedtime and sleep, and will wind down accordingly so that by the time she’s in her bed she’ll be feeling relaxed and ready to nod off.
- Don’t make the routine too long. It should only take about 30 minutes from beginning to end. Otherwise, your child will lose track and get confused and bored.
- Keep the routine gentle, quiet, focused and calm.
- Remove all screens such as TV, smartphones and tablets for at least an hour before your child’s bedtime. Otherwise her brain will think it’s recognising daylight and trigger a hormone called cortisol, which will keep her awake. The sleep hormone, melatonin, is triggered by darkness so minimise light – especially the artificial light emitted by screens.
- Your child’s bath should be nice and warm – not too hot – and last just five minutes. A long hot bath raises the body temperature and reduces melatonin. Remember that’s the hormone which promotes sleepiness, so we need to raise it as high as possible at night-time – and that’s best done by keeping things dark and cool. If you want to have a longer, warmer play bath, have it earlier in the day for fun.
- Get your child to dry off quickly and head straight into her bedroom. Quietly put on pyjamas and pop into bed.
- Sing a lullaby, or read a story.
- Give her a kiss, a cuddle, say good night and pop her down to sleep.
This article is for information only and should not be used for the diagnosis or treatment of medical conditions. Essential Parent has used all reasonable care in compiling the information from leading experts and institutions but makes no warranty as to its accuracy. Consult a doctor or other health care professional for diagnosis and treatment of medical conditions. For details click here