Ensuring your child is getting enough sleep and maintains a regular sleep pattern is vital to their development. Proper sleep allows for better concentration and reduces the risk of mental illness and physical health problems such as diabetes, heart problems, depression and substance abuse.
As children are spending more and more time online, on the phone or in front of the TV their sleep patterns are beginning to be interrupted suddenly they are at risk of sleep disorders, mood swings, anxiety and depression as well as various physical health problems long term.
What can you do?
Limit Screen Time
Having an hour of “Wind down” time before bed can be helpful in helping your child’s brain slow down enough to allow for a proper sleep. They will often find they drift off quicker and their sleep is of a much higher quality. It is also important that phones/iPods/etc aren’t kept near or in the bed as they emit energy that trigger brain activity and make it hard for your child to sleep.
Have a Routine
By creating and sticking to a regular sleep routine, we allow our children’s circadian rhythms (sleep-wake cycle) to develop. By ensuring they are in bed and wake at the same time each day, their body becomes used to this and they recognise that time as the time to go to sleep. This also helps in reducing sleep dept and preventing any long term effects caused by sleep deprivation.
Create a Conducive Sleeping Environment
Make sure your child’s room is cool, dark and they have all they need (such as their bear, or their favourite blankets). Ensure they’re not too hot as this will interrupt their sleep. If they’re scared of the dark a nightlight in the next room or dimmed in the corner will help them feel settled.
Try to limit the amount of stimulants your child consumes before bed. Sugar, soft drinks and caffienated beverages will cause your child to be restless and wake during the night. Excessive beverages could also cause them to need to wake to go to the bathroom through the night, interrupting their sleep.
How do I know if I need to get help for my child?
Sleep problems may often be about something other than poor sleep hygeine and their may be an issue that needs to be investigated properly. If you’re concerned that your child isn’t sleeping properly or they are showing signs of poor sleep, it may be beneficial to seek help. Your GP, paediatrician or local family health nurse is often a good place to start. They will be able to advise you on the appropriate processes needed to help.
Consistent tiredness, restless sleep and anxiety around bedtime are often an indication that there may be more to your child’s sleep troubles than poor sleep hygeine. Discussing any concerns your child might have is a good place to start and will help you get an idea of what might be going on.