A Parent’s Guide to…. Sleep Patterns

Today is World Sleep Day, and the key message being spread by the World Sleep Society is “Regular Sleep, Healthy Futures”. With this in mind, we got thinking about how the COVID pandemic has not only effected our daily routines, but our sleep patterns too.

In fact, research has shown that many children have been going to bed later than normal throughout lockdown, and it’s also been shown that children are sleeping more than usual too – possibly as a result of anxieties around the pandemic.

Living a healthy lifestyle isn’t just about maintaining a balanced diet and getting enough physical activity; healthy sleep patterns are also a vital part of living well. Ensuring your child has a healthy sleep structure and getting enough sleep will benefit their mood, their growth & development,  their focus and their hunger signals.

Follow our tips for a good night’s sleep, every night…

It starts with a good daytime routine...

Having a consistent routine helps our body’s natural rhythm; getting the body used to when it is time to get up and time to go to bed. Here are some ways you can ensure a good daytime routine.

  • Set an alarm to wake up at the same time every morning.
  • Open the curtains and let the light in.
  • Make time to get outside in the daylight each day – even if only for a few minutes.
  • If you can’t get outside open the window for a blast of fresh air
  • Making a visual timetable for the day could be a fun activity to do together and may help to reduce anxieties about the change in daily structure.
Worry time

Allocate a specific time during the day to talk about worries. This can relieve the need for children to talk about them at bedtime and feel anxious before trying to get to sleep.

It’s important to make the time to talk about whatever is on your child’s mind, but by encouraging your child to put their worries to one side until dedicated Worry Time, they can get on with the rest of their day (and bedtime) without their head swimming with anxieties.

Ask your child to keep their worries safely locked away until it’s time to talk; you could ask them to put them in an imaginary worry box that they could close the lid on, or give them to a worry bear (one of their teddies) to look after.

Good times to talk and listen might include while on a family walk or during some quiet play time, at bath-time or after dinner. If they find it hard to verbalise what is worrying them, suggest drawing a picture or build some Lego.

Physical Activity

Research has shown that physical activity is closely linked with falling to sleep more quickly, and having longer lasting sleep.

Children are recommended to have at least 60 minutes of moderate activity everyday.  This can be broken up into small bursts through-out the day. Of course, exercise workouts count, but so does climbing the stairs, dancing around the kitchen, helping with the housework or going for a brisk walk.  There are loads of ways to keep active at home while sports clubs and classes are still closed; walk to school or to the shop, try YouTube workouts such as Joe Wicks or Cosmic Yoga, or just have fun making up silly games around the house – try building our obstacle course!

Bedtime do's & don'ts

Creating a relaxed, calming bedtime routine helps signal to our bodies that it is nearly time to sleep.  The routine might include:  

  • a warm bath 
  • dim the lights as they get ready for bed 
  • storytime or quiet relaxing chat or listening to calm music 

Avoid these things before bed: 

  • screens for at least an hour before bed 
  • screens or devices on charge in the bedroom 
  • talking about worries

 

Bedroom Environment

Cool – the body needs to cool down to be able to sleep; if a room is stuffy it can be hard to sleep.  Lower the thermostat and use duvets and blankets to get cosy instead. 

Dark – lower the lights before story-time; close the curtains 

Calm & Quiet – leave pets outside the bedroom to avoid them inadvertently disturbing sleep in the middle of the night. Saying good night to them could be part of the bedtime routine. 

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