Sleep. It’s something everyone needs, but not everyone gets. And when sleep quality is lacking, there can be a profound detrimental impact on overall health and well-being. While this is true across the board, t’s particularly important for children to not only get enough rest but to practice healthy sleeping habits as well.
This is where you come in as a parent or caregiver. There are many things you can do each day to model healthy habits and ensure they’re followed through. Fortunately, fostering and implementing them is fairly simple. Here are three to start with to improve your child’s sleep.
- Understand the Effects of Light
Did you know that the amount and type of light your child is exposed to before bed and throughout the night could be causing trouble with their sleep? If not, now’s a good time to learn a bit more about light and its impact on sleep.
Daylight and the sun are incredibly important to establish and maintain a healthy circadian rhythm, so ensuring your child gets adequate exposure each day is a must. However, artificial sources of light, such as blue light (from devices and televisions) are prime culprits for disturbing the brain’s ability to maintain the proper rhythm into nighttime and sleep.
So, what can you do? If there’s a television in your child’s room, remove it. Set limits on device usage so they’re not being used for several hours before bedtime. Also, the use of red light therapy for sleep optimization has been proven to be effective and safe. Research the benefits of red light therapy and consider adding it to your family’s wind-down routine.
Additionally, limit or eliminate night light use in your child’s bedroom. This can be tricky if you have a child who is afraid of the dark, however. Consider using a small strand of soft-white twinkle lights in an area of the bedroom or using a motion-sensing light for nighttime wake-ups or bathroom trips. Himalayan salt lamps are also a wonderful alternative to traditional lights, due to their natural and soft glow.
- Focus on Diet
What your child eats and drinks each day can have a strong impact on their sleep that evening. Looking at a typical day’s diet and paying attention to the quality of sleep that follows can be very helpful in making any necessary changes.
While your child’s diet might seem generally ok, remember that desserts, fatty and refined foods can all wreak havoc on sleep. Why? Desserts, especially those containing chocolate, are sources of caffeine and sugar, which can make settling down (and staying there) very difficult. Fatty or refined snacks, such as cheese curls or chips, can trigger untimely cortisol production — something that also makes sleeping difficult.
This doesn’t mean your child can’t enjoy a bowl of ice cream after dinner or a bowl of buttery popcorn on family movie night. Moderation is key. What it does mean is that you might find winding down is more difficult than usual. In these instances, try heading outside to get some energy out before bath time, or introduce a calming activity, such as family yoga, before turning in for the night.
- Establish Routines To Decrease Anxiety
With as busy and stressful as life can be, it’s all too easy to forget that adults aren’t the only ones who feel anxiety sometimes. Kids do too, and just as with adults, it can lead to restless or even sleepless nights.
What can you do? Make a point to talk with your child each day. Implement different stress-relieving practices, such as meditative breathing, aromatherapy, journaling, or drawing.
It’s also important to stay consistent in your routines, not only at bedtime but throughout the rest of the day as well. This helps your child know what to expect and when, which is important for an overall sense of well-being and comfort.
Helping your child get better sleep should be a priority. While it might take some time to tweak your lifestyle or routines, rest assured any changes made will be well worth it.