How to get your children to sleep better
Getting children to go to bed and sleep through the night is one of the most common issues in parenting. Yet by following a few techniques and essential all round parenting advice, a good night’s sleep for your child needn’t be difficult to achieve. Here are some top tips to encourage restful slumber for your kids.
Most children need around 9 to 12 hours of sleep every night, but routines and sleep patterns vary from child to child, so work out roughly how much sleep your child needs every night, and the optimum times for going to bed and waking up. Once you’ve got a routine in place, try to stick with it. Some children can cope with going to bed a bit later at weekends, while others may end up completely exhausted. See what works best for your child.
Calm before bed
Children will sleep better if they wind down slowly in the evening, prior to hitting the sack. This means avoiding watching TV, playing computer games, using a tablet or participating in high-energy activities at least two hours before bed. All these can raise hormones that interfere with sleep, making it harder to settle down for the night. Instead, read to your child or get them to read a book, and run them a warm and relaxing bath.
If youngsters want a snack before bedtime, avoid sugary foods that will cause energy levels to spike, and instead opt for foods rich in the chemical tryptophan, which induces sleepiness. Top choices include walnuts, oat biscuits, bananas and wheat-based breakfast cereals. Contrary to what people believe, eating cheese before bed won’t give you nightmares; in fact, dairy products, such as cheese, milk and yoghurt can trigger sleep hormones, so are ideal pre-bedtime.
Children will get a better night’s sleep if their sleeping environment is restful and relaxing. Heat and light are the two biggest factors that influence a sleeping environment. A child’s room should be kept fairly cool, around 18 degrees Celsius, so you may have to adjust bedding and clothing according to the different seasons. The room should be kept dark, as darkness triggers the sleep hormone, melatonin. Black out blinds or a sleep mask are useful aids if light is stopping your child from sleeping.
Your child’s bedroom should also be free from distractions. Having lots of toys or teddies on the bed may be comforting for a child, but it could interfere with their sleep. Turn off any gadgets in the room that could make a noise during the night, and switch off electrical appliances, as these may disturb sleep hormones.
If your child suffers from sleep problems, such as night terrors, nightmares, anxieties or bed wetting, try to get to the root of the problem. Always be reassuring and calm with your child, rather than telling them off, as this can only make the issue worse. Hopefully, in time, these problems will pass, but speak to your GP if they persist.
If you have any more useful tips for getting a good night’s sleep, let me know in the comments section below or on our Facebook page.