7 tips to healthy sleep habits for your child
Good sleep is vital for your child’s physical and mental wellbeing. Although this may seem apparent, many of us often do not think much of it, which is a problem. With parents working long hours, schedules packed with school, after-school activities, and other lifestyle factors, naps are missed, bedtimes get delayed, mornings start earlier, and nights may be anything but peaceful.
A lack of sleep may affect your children’s concentration, memory and mood (e.g. Increased irritability). Prolonged sleep deprivation can also lead to obesity and other physical health problems in the longer term.
Tips to ensure sufficient rest for your child:
1. Know how much sleep your child needs
|Babies||4 to 12 months old||12 to 16 hours, including naps|
|Toddlers||1 to 2 years old||11 to 14 hours, including naps|
|Children||3 to 5 years old||10 to 13 hours, including naps
|6 to 12 years old||9 to 12 hours|
|Teenagers||13 to 18 years old||8 to 10 hours|
2. Keep to a regular sleep cycle
Going to bed and getting up at roughly the same time every day will programme your body to sleep better. Doing the same things in the same order an hour or so before bedtime can help lull your child to sleep.
3. Create a restful sleeping environment
Your child’s bedroom should ideally be dark, quiet and tidy. It should be well ventilated and kept at a cool temperature.
The fitting of thick curtains can help to block out bright, glaring lights and even noise.
4. Limit screens in the bedroom
If possible, do not have a mobile, tablet, TV or computer in the bedroom at night, as the light from the screen interferes with sleep. Having screens in the bedroom also means that your child is more likely to stay up late interacting with their friends via games or social media. Encourage your child to have at least an hour of screen-free time before going to sleep.
5. Encourage your child to relax before going to sleep
A warm bath will help your child relax and get ready for sleep. Once they are in bed, encourage your child to read quietly or read a story together. Besides relaxation, studies have shown that reading before bedtime helps with a child’s brain development and improves creativity. Reading is beneficial as it also helps to reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s disease.
6. Exercise for better sleep
Regular exercise helps you sleep more soundly, as well as improve your general health. Teenagers should be aiming for at least 60 minutes of exercise each day, including aerobic activities such as fast walking and running. Exercising outdoors in the daytime will help to encourage healthy sleep patterns too.
7. Refrain from binge eating before going to bed
Let teenagers know that overeating or eating too little close to bedtime can lead to an overfull or empty stomach. It can be a cause of discomfort during the night and may prevent sleep.
When should I seek medical attention if my child’s sleeping habit does not improve?
- Symptoms of insomnia last longer than four weeks.
- Sleep deprivation affecting daytime activities and the ability to focus or function.
- Behaviour changes such as – low mood, loss of interest in things your child used to enjoy, significant appetite or weight change, low self-esteem and low energy.
- Loud snoring, waking up during the night gasping for breath.
- Low energy and daytime sleepiness despite adequate sleep.
Seek emergency care if your child has worsening mood or agitation from suicide or self-harming thoughts.
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