Is your child lacking energy, losing concentration at school, or gaining weight unexpectedly? These could be the telling signs that they are not getting enough sleep.
Sleep is fundamental to a child’s natural development. Not getting enough could greatly impact on their health and cognitive development. The hours of sleep they need varies, with newborns requiring up to 18 hours, infants (3-11 months) needing up to 15 hours, toddlers up to 14, and school kids requiring up to 11 hours.
Here are some tips to ensure your child is getting the hours of sleep he or she needs to function optimally:
1. Set a regular time for bed each night and stick to it. The body needs to learn when it’s time to sleep. Making sure your child goes to bed at the same time every evening will teach this early on. Also try organising cues that trigger in the child’s mind that it’s nearly bedtime such as dressing them in their pyjamas 20 minutes prior to bedtime each evening or making them put toys away an hour beforehand.
2. Establish a relaxing bedtime routine. As mentioned above, routine is important as it lets the body know when it’s time to start getting ready for sleep. Establishing a routine that involves reading a bedtime story, drinking a glass of warm milk or having a soothing bath will help your child relax, sending them off to sleep quicker.
3. Make after-dinner playtime relaxing. Relaxing after dinner gives your child time to unwind from the day before going to bed. This means no extraneous physical or mind-stimulating activities like playing on computers/tablets, or watching television.
4. Avoid large meals close to bedtime. Bodies need time to digest food and attempting to sleep soon after eating can be uncomfortable and cause problems with digestion. This can make it hard for children to fall asleep and even instigate disrupted sleep.
5. Avoid anything with caffeine, such as chocolate or a hot cocoa, less than six hours prior to bedtime. Caffeine tends to affect children more so than adults, so it’s best to avoid things that contain the stimulant for several hours before bed.
6. Make sure your children’s bedroom is a comfortable temperature, quiet and dark. If your child doesn’t like the dark, use a very dim nightlight. The bedroom should also be comfortable and cool, with a temperature of 18 -20°C.
7. It’s important that you wake your child at the same time each day, even at the weekends. Your child’s body clock needs a strict routine and in setting a specific wake up time, you will notice a consistent amount of energy from your child each day.
(Source: Cliff Sneider, Group CEO of Bedsonline.com.au)