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The Importance of Healthy Sleep Habits for Kids

How pre-sleep rituals can benefit a child’s quality of life

In a fast-paced world like ours, one thing often gets left behind: quality sleep. We spend a third of our lives sleeping but with work, school and technology getting in the way, our sleep takes the backseat over other priorities. Sleep is even more important for kids, as their minds and bodies are still developing. Sleep is when the body rests, repairs itself and rejuvenates its immune system.

When talking about healthy sleep habits in this day and age, there are five things parents can do to make sure children get the sleep they need.

  1. Stress the significance of bedtime rituals
Photo by Robyn Budlender on Unsplash

Yes, your kids have bedtimes, that’s the norm for most families with young children. However, is that bedtime meant for when your child should start sleeping or when they should start getting ready for sleep?

The human body loves routines. A repetition of actions leads to a calmer mind due to its predictability. A pre-sleep routine can signal to the body that it is nearly time to sleep. For instance, a bedtime routine that promotes calmness and relaxation can do wonders towards a good night of sleep. During your bedtime ritual, your body will release melatonin, the hormone which makes you feel sleepy, as a signal to your brain that it is time to sleep.

Many of the world’s most successful people swear by bedtime routines:

  • Ariana Huffington completely unplugs an hour before her bedtime. She also chargers her phone outside of her bedroom.
  • Whilst he was president, Barack Obama read 10 letters from concerned Americans at night.
  • Microsoft-founder and billionare Bill Gates washes the dishes before bed!

A great habit to teach kids is to read books before bed. Make sure to also let kids know that it is important to not have screen time right before bed.

2. Healthy Tech habits go hand-in-hand with healthy sleep habits

Photo by Adriano de Gironimo on Unsplash

Humans evolved so that we would feel sleepy after dark. Biologically, this means that the release of melatonin is triggered when it is dark. The invention of the electric light as well as mobile phones has made this a more significant challenge. This is why it is important to turn down those lights at night and allow yourself ample time to unplug before bed. For kids, this may mean to turn on those nightlights before sleep and no screen time in bedrooms.

A Harvard study suggests that blue light that emanates from phones and tablets can disrupt sleep and can delay the release of melatonin. If your child is adamant on a couple more viewings of baby shark a few hours before bed, consider apps that filters out blue light. Apps such as F.lux and native iOS features can turn the screen increasingly orange depending on your location and time. This minimises the risk of screen-time having adverse effects on your child’s sleep.

3. Consistency is key

Teach kids that it is important to sleep and wake up at the same time everyday. Quite similarly to bedtime rituals, this increases predictability and your body adapts to when it should feel sleepy and when it should wake up.

A sleep tracker can aid in this too. There are apps and wearables available that help kids track their sleep and can even indicate their sleep quality. An alarm app such as Sleep Cycle can provide statistics on how long your child slept for, the quality of their sleep and even whether they snored or not! A nifty feature is that the app wakes you up during a moment in your sleep cycle when you are not in deep sleep. This means that your child will wake up refreshed with no grogginess.

4. Don’t eat before bed

The purpose of sleep is to give the body rest. While this is commonly perceived as your muscles, it is important to think about the body’s digestive system as a muscle as well. It was just working out on processing your last meal!

Make sure to not give children any food or flavoured drinks less than 2 hours before bed. This ensures that your child’s stomach and intestines get adequate rest.

5. Set a good example

Photo by Simon Matzinger on Unsplash

It’s no good to get take the iPad off your children’s hands during bedtime while you are scrolling through your own Instagram feed at the same time. Practicing what you preach shows to your kids that you care about them and only want what’s best for their health. When you take care of your own sleep habits, your child will too.

So set a good example for your kids by following the same lessons that you are teaching them. Cause let’s face it: parents need sleep as much as their kids. Maybe even more so after dealing with a tantrum or two!

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