Children and Sleep: Healthy Sleep Habits For Your Child
Children and Sleep: Healthy Sleep Habits For Your Child
As parents, we know how tough it can be when our kids don't get a full night's rest. From extreme hyperactivity, an overall grumpy attitude, or meltdowns in the supermarket, we've all experienced the fallout from a child that is not well rested.
Aside from our piece of mind during the day-to-day, making sure our children are getting enough sleep is essential for their overall health. Poor sleep hygiene in children is linked to several negative health impacts.
What is sleep hygiene?
Sleep hygiene is about setting yourself up for a good night's sleep. Proper sleep hygiene means creating good sleep habits that promote rest and deep sleep.
Healthy sleep habits can help individuals get the necessary rest to function daily.
On the other hand, poor sleep habits can lead to interrupted sleep, insomnia, and—by extension—daytime tiredness, difficulty concentrating, and low mood.
Healthy sleep habits for kids
Let's see how we as parents can apply healthy sleep habits to ensure our children get enough and proper sleep.
Keep a regular bedtime
A consistent bedtime and relaxing bedtime routine are great tools for creating a healthy sleep schedule for your children.
Choose a time for lights out and work backward from there. Give your kids plenty of time for essential bedtime tasks, like bathing and brushing teeth. Incorporate wind down activities such as drinking a warm glass of milk, quality time, or reading a story together.
Create a comfortable sleeping environment
Check that lights from the street, hallway, or living room don't leak into your child's room. Consider blackout curtains, which can help block outside light and noise.
Get a bedside small lamp so you can turn off bright bedroom ceiling lights an hour before bedtime. If your child is afraid of the dark, consider a nightlight, starry night light, or glow-in-the-dark stars.
Keep your child's bedroom at an appropriate temperature. According to the Sleep Foundation, the ideal temperature for children and adults is between 60 and 67 degrees Fahrenheit. Infants sleep best with an ambient temperature set at around 69 degrees.
No electronics before bed
Enforcing the "no electronics before bed" rule can be challenging, but try to stick to your guns.
Blue light emitted from phones, tablets, computers, and televisions can harm a healthy circadian rhythm. Blue light emissions signal our brain to be alert and can suppress the release of melatonin, an important sleep-regulating hormone.
Try to reduce the use of electronics up to 2-3 hours before bedtime.
Have an early dinner
Eating a large meal before bed can make it difficult to fall asleep due to the effects of digestion and/or bloating or nausea.
Try to plan for a family dinner at least 2 hours before bedtime.
Avoid food or beverages with caffeine, such as coca-cola or chocolate. While the effects of caffeine may desensitize some adults, children are especially sensitive to its effects. They may be kept awake for many hours after the smallest consumption.
If your child feels hungry before bed, don't deny them a snack. Feeling hungry can also affect their ability to fall asleep and stay asleep. Instead, opt for healthy, sleep-friendly foods in small quantities. Cashews, bananas, and yogurt are good choices.
Healthy food choices throughout the day and consuming a wide range of nutrients can also help promote good sleep in children.
Daytime routine, exercise, and sun exposure
Think about how your child's daytime routine may affect their sleep.
Kids have a lot of energy. Do they have sufficient outlets for that energy, such as an activity, sport, or playtime?
"Wearing out" your kids before bedtime is a common and well-known tactic. That said, energetic activities close to bedtime are more likely to have the opposite effect. Plan playtime, sport, or activities during the day.
Try to plan at least some outdoor activities, so your children can get fresh air. Exposure to sunlight is also essential in helping support the body's circadian rhythm.
How much sleep your child needs
The ideal number of sleeping hours per night varies depending on the age of your children. Here is an overview, according to the American Academy of Sleep Medicine:
Infants 4 to 12 months old require 12-16 hours of sleep.
Toddlers 1 to 2 years old require 11-14 hours of sleep.
Preschool-age children 3 to 5 years old require 10-13 hours of sleep.
Children 6-12 years old require 9-12 hours of sleep.
Teenagers 13-18 years old require 8-10 hours of sleep.
Side effects of children not getting enough sleep
As with adults, children can immediately feel the effects of one night of bad sleep the next day. Long periods of poor sleep, also known as sleep deprivation, can be detrimental to your child's short-term and long-term growth.
Daytime tiredness can lead to unpredictable mood swings, jumping back and forth between intense irritability and hyperactivity. After a poor night's sleep, your child will likely have a shorter attention span and more difficulty focusing.
Possible long-term effects of poor sleep in children include allergic rhinitis, compromised immune health, anxiety, depression, obesity, diabetes, and high blood pressure.
Sleep deficiency can cause serious problems. That's why it's so important to prioritize healthy sleep for your kids.
Tips for helping your children get a good night's sleep
Make getting enough sleep a priority in the family. Prioritizing sleep is a family affair. Ensure your child's sleep hygiene is considered a priority for the entire family and everyone is committed to an agreed-upon bedtime routine. Follow recommendations for good sleep habits to the best of your ability.
Make bedtime fun. Your child is more likely to accept a bedtime routine if it feels relaxing, comforting, and fun. Incorporating low-energy activities such as reading, storytelling, cuddling, or talking about their day are great ways to make bedtime something to look forward to.
Make sure your child's bed is comfortable and inviting. Having a comfy place to sleep will inspire kids to want to sleep in their beds and help them fall asleep faster. Mellanni has a wide selection of amazing bedsheets for the whole family. Our Premium Bed Pillows or Toddler Pillow (depending on how old your children are) are great options to provide them with an extra comfy place to lay their heads. Want to give them the experience of sleeping on clouds while protecting their mattress? Try our Microplush Mattress Pad.
Schedule activities, but don't overschedule. Your child must have an active lifestyle to promote good sleep. That said, balance is key. Overscheduling daytime activities can be stressful for your child and lead to poor sleep.
Healthy diet for your kids. Aside from avoiding big meals and caffeine close to bedtime, keeping an eye on your child's diet can also help promote overall health and excellent sleeping habits. Don't force your child to eat in a certain way or a certain quantity, as this can cause stress, contributing to sleeping problems. Instead, try to model healthy habits and put nutritious foods in front of your kids as often as possible.
Recognize sleep problems. Suppose you've tried to promote healthy sleep but find that your child still has trouble falling asleep, staying asleep, or functioning normally during the day. In that case, it may be time to take a closer look. Keep your eye out for abnormal sleeping habits.
Normalize talking to your doctor about sleep, even if you think there isn't a problem. Sleep is so essential to our daily well-being that sometimes it's easy to overlook. Next time you sit down with your pediatrician, talk about your child's sleep habits and get the scoop on new recommendations in the field.
Common sleep problems in children
While occasional difficulties falling asleep and staying asleep should be no cause for concern, certain sleep problems may be signs of a bigger problem. Keep your eyes peeled for these common sleep disorders which may be affecting your child's sleep habits.
Nightmares are incredibly common in children. It doesn't have a huge impact on most kids' overall sleep health, and simple reassurance after a nightmare can help them relax and get back to sleep.
On the other hand, some children may experience repetitive and recurring nightmares that make them dread falling asleep. Recurring nightmares can harm their sleep health.
Talk to your doctor if your child has had more than two nightmares a week for six months or more.
Sleep terrors differ from nightmares because those that suffer from sleep terrors usually do not remember having the episode. During sleep terrors, a child may scream, moan, suddenly sit up in bed, or appear frightened—all while remaining asleep.
Sleep terrors are considered a type of parasomnia. The good news? It is a relatively common sleep disorder in kids; many will grow out of it by 12. Sleep terrors can run in the family but maybe also be due to poor sleep hygiene.
Occasional night terrors are no cause for concern. If episodes become frequent or your child's safety is at risk during an occurrence, consult a doctor.
Sleepwalking is a disorder in which a child may get out of bed, walk around, eat, or get dressed while still actively sleeping. Sleepwalking, like sleep terrors, is a type of parasomnia. Poor sleep hygiene can contribute to sleepwalking in children.
If your child experiences an episode of sleepwalking, do not panic. Try to coax them back to bed using a quiet, calming tone. Whatever you do, do not wake them.
Sleepwalking is not usually something to worry about. If instances of sleepwalking become prevalent or violent, contact your child's primary care physician.
Snoring and sleep apnea (gasping breaths)
Pediatric obstructive sleep apnea is when your child periodically stops breathing at night. While it may be difficult to notice at first pediatric OSA disrupts healthy sleep and may lead to behavioral problems during waking hours.
If you notice your child is snoring loudly, taking gasping breaths, choking, or tossing and turning during the night, it may be a sign they have sleep apnea.
Restless leg syndrome
When a child suffers from restless leg syndrome or Willis-Ekbom disease, they may feel that their legs move uncontrollably during the night. RLS may be very frustrating for children, who sometimes have their claims dismissed as them just being "hyper" or "fidgety."
If your child reports uncontrollable urges to move their legs during bedtime (repeatedly), take them seriously and talk to your doctor.
Bedwetting can be a common occurrence or a sign of a larger problem. Most kids grow out of wetting the bed by the age of 7. If your child is still frequently wetting the bed past seven years old or bedwetting is physically painful for your child, consult a doctor.
Poor sleep habits can be solved quickly if addressed at a young age. If dismissed, they may cause your child long-term health problems or difficulty sleeping long into adulthood.
Today, many adults reach for sleep medicine to help them feel rested., making them dependent on medication to get proper sleep. With children, it can be as easy as developing a solid sleep schedule and making their sleep environment comfortable and inviting.
Here at Mellanni, we have the perfect bedding in our catalog to help kids sleep as comfortably as possible:
To make your child's bedroom as dark and quiet as possible to ensure the best night's sleep, check out our Blackout Curtains which perfectly block UV light and noise from the outside.
We have various sheet sets ranging from flannel, cotton, and microfiber to help your child sleep comfortably and in style.
Get the right pillow for your little one's head. Check out Mellanni's pillow collection for soft adult-sized pillows or small, compact toddler pillows.
Our Premium Body Pillow is a great addition to the reading, chatting, or cuddling portion of the perfect bedtime routine.
Children, just like adults, deserve a comfortable sleeping surface. Our Microplush Mattress Pad is like sleeping on a cloud.