Good sleep is as important as good nutrition for children. Research has shown children who sleep better are more alert, well-behaved, have better memory and overall health. Inadequate sleep or disturbed sleep can make children jumpy, anxious, depressed and also affect their physical health in the long run. So, what does it take to ensure better sleep for children?
It takes more than just a well-decorated room and a comfortable bed to improve children’s sleep quality. Fortunately, improving a child’s sleep quality is not a difficult goal to achieve with straightforward sleep hygiene practices. Here are some rules to follow to ensure your child gets a good night’s sleep, adequate rest, and wakes up refreshed, ready to face a new day!
1. Follow a bedtime routine
Following a ‘same time, every day’ bedtime routine helps children to sleep better and it allows their body to adjust to the sleep-wake cycle.
Some children are more anxious than others about not being able to fall asleep. The result can be a cranky, hyperactive child! Sleep anxiety in children is not uncommon and can be overcome with a regular bedtime routine. An excellent way to overcome child sleep anxiety is to spend time with them while putting them to bed. Sit beside them, snuggle, tuck them in, alleviate bedtime fears, and help their mind to relax. But, do not talk too much or spend a very long time with them while they are trying to go to sleep. If your child likes to read in bed, allow some light bedtime reading for a while.
2. Create a good sleep environment
When the body and mind need rest, a calming sleep environment promotes the process. A dimly lit room, a comfortable blanket, appropriate bedding for children, soothing bedroom temperature are some of the most important things to look out for.
Give your child a blanket that will not make him/her feel too warm at night. The recommended optimal temperature for good sleep is around 65 °F to 70 °F (18.3 °C to 21.1 °C). Choose your child’s bedtime attire carefully. Breathable cotton shirts and pajamas are the most comfortable bedtime dressing options.
3. Choose children’s bedding carefully
What suits an adult may not be appropriate for children. You will be surprised to see the wide variety of children's bedding options available in the market. These are specially designed to keep children more comfortable in bed. For example, a suitable pillow for an adult is not the appropriate 'pillow for a child', and it will be thicker and fluffier, causing neck strain and uncomfortable breathing. By the time your children are teenagers, they can graduate to using pillows from your bed. If you are looking for pillows that will cater to the entire family, find designs that have stuffing options and fill out fillers as required.
Pillows for children play a significant role in their quality of sleep, and pillows provide support as well as comfort. Too soft, too hard, synthetic filling and fabric, moisture-retaining filling can lead to many health-related issues. An ideal pillow for children would be one with natural, eco-friendly fillers like wool that helps pillow temperature management and gives superior comfort and support.
Also, look out for the pillowcase material, as it will come in direct contact with your child's skin. Cotton is the best material for pillowcases, both for children and adults. Since it is a natural fibre, cotton fabric is the most breathable of all. Additionally, cotton lasts longer and can manage to survive rough handling and pillow fights in your child's bed. If your child is overly sensitive to allergens, explore hypoallergenic pillows to keep them comfortable.
4. Keep the room as quiet as possible
Noise can be a major sleep thief! A peaceful, quiet ambience allows better sleep. Noise in the room, from the TV in the other room, or even from a noisy neighbourhood can be a major cause of disturbed sleep. Try to keep the noise level in your child’s room as low as possible. Eliminate as much noise in the house as you can, shut windows to cut down on outside noise.
Noise can be a significant sleep thief! A peaceful, quiet ambience allows better sleep. Noise in the room, from the TV in the other room, or even from a noisy neighbourhood can cause disturbed sleep. Try to keep the noise level in your child's room as low as possible. Eliminate as much noise in the house as you can, shut windows to cut down on outside noise.
5. Avoid exciting activities close to bedtime
A relaxed mind helps a child sleep faster and better. Avoid doing any stimulating activities when bedtime gets closer. Energizing games, watching TV, playing video games, and other high-energy activities will not allow your child’s mind to relax quickly. The success of winning a bedtime battle depends on how well you can plan and execute what is necessary for improving a child’s sleep.
6. Strategic napping
Long daytime naps or naps that are too close to bedtime can keep your child awake past bedtime. Allow the child enough ‘awake time’ before putting them to bed. Ideally, there should be a four to five hours gap between two sleep periods. Too much sleep during the day may interfere with children’s sleep routine at night.
7. Know how much sleep does your child require
Sleep requirements vary with age. Toddlers need more sleep than school-going children. With age, your child’s sleep requirements will vary. Knowing how much sleep is appropriate for different age groups will help you manage your child’s bedtime routine better. Individual requirements of every child are different, but the commonly recommended hours of sleep for children are -
- 3 - 5 years old children - 10 to 13 hours of sleep required every night.
- 6 - 12 years old children - 9 to 12 hours of sleep required every night.
- 13 - 18 years teenagers -8 to 10 hours of sleep required every night.
8. A warm bath before bedtime helps
A bedtime bath is much more than the neat, germ-free feeling and a hygienic practice! A warm bath one or two hours before bed can help children sleep better. There is a scientific reason for this. The body temperature drops after a warm bath, sending signals to the brain that it is time for the body to relax.
Research shows when the body temperature drops even by 1℃, it can help in falling asleep faster. It also reduces the chances of waking up at night less and encourages a sound sleep for a longer period. Giving a warm bath will help your child feel more calm and relaxed and assist in sleeping well throughout the night.
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