The term ” regular schedule “and “daily routine “takes a different meaning this year than in previous years. If your household has been affected by distance learning, working from home, and reduced activities, your family’s sleep cycles may have been influenced as well. As we get ready to return to in-person schooling and reenter our social life, it’s time to get our sleep schedule back on track.
Quality sleep is essential for everyone but critically important for children and their developing brains. Quality sleep promotes improved mood, focus, intellectual acumen and is considered one of the pillars of physical and mental health.
Here are five ways parents can help their children establish good sleep habits.
- Establish a sleep schedule.
A consistent sleep schedule for children and adults is the cornerstone of sleep hygiene. Having a sleep schedule lets the body know when it is time to sleep and when it is time to be awake.
Children whose parents set a bedtime schedule are more likely to get more sleep than their peers without parent-set bedtimes.
The amount of sleep a child needs depends on several factors, but the national sleep foundation provides these guidelines.
- Preschoolers ( ages 3-5) require 10-13 hours of sleep
- School-age children(ages 6-13) need 9-11 hours of sleep
- Teenagers ( ages 14-17) require 8-10 hours of sleep
- Get back on schedule
Whenever possible, try to keep children on a consistent sleep routine to avoid a big adjustment when returning to school. Most likely, in a household of middle and high school-age kids, a readjustment will be necessary. The easiest way to implement adjusting a sleep schedule is to roll it out in 15-minute increments for a few weeks before school starts.
- Create a bedtime routine
The bedtime routine should be age-appropriate and can include winding down for the day and relaxing activities like taking a warm bath, cuddling with a parent, storytime, and a daily top three reflection. Older kids’ bedtime rituals could consist of prepping for the following day, turning off electronics, and getting off social media.
- Promote sleep hygiene
Sleep hygiene is essential for a good night’s sleep. The most common sleep hygiene tips include the following…
- Good nutrition
- Complete exercising at least two hours before bedtime
- Manage the daily stress by not overscheduling.
- Avoid caffeine and stimulants in the afternoon and evening.
- Create a bedroom environment that promotes sleep. That includes keeping the room dark, maintaining the temperature at a cool 68F-72 F degrees, and providing a white noise machine that creates a soothing sound.
- Limit blue light and technology
Children exposed to blue light before bedtime experience more insufficient sleep quality. Several studies suggest that blue light suppresses melatonin, the hormone that tells the body its time to sleep.
Children should be encouraged to turn off TVs, computers, laptops, cell phones, game devices, and anything else that emits blue light at least 90 minutes before bedtime.
Sleep is not a luxury, but it’s essential to our well-being. The caregivers embrace this belief model behavior and create environments that support lifelong sleep habits for the whole family.
I hope these five ways to establish better sleep and get back on track were useful to you. Remember we are here to help if your child’s anxiety is keeping them awake at night.
Marina Blalock, AMFT