At this time of year, limiting chocolate and sweet treats before bedtime is crucial to avoid sugar rushes that can keep children wide awake.
When it comes to getting a good night’s sleep, diet, exercise, a comfy bed, healthy lifestyle and a good wind-down routine all contribute – and they’re just as important for teens and youngsters as adults.
Said Lisa Artis, sleep guru at The Sleep Council: “If a child doesn’t get enough sleep, then the parents probably aren’t either and that can cause stress for the whole family. Kids love Easter for all its sweet treats. Just make sure they don’t get that sugar rush too near to bed-time otherwise they’ll find it tricky to settle. Lack of sleep is something of a national epidemic, so it is particularly important for parents to help their children establish good sleep hygiene habits at an early age – not letting them stay up too late, sleep wherever they want and demanding snacks and attention in the middle of the night.”
There are plenty of good reasons to invest in your child’s sleep. A decent night’s sleep will help children do better at school, allow them to react more quickly to situations, have a better developed memory, learn more effectively and solve problems. Plus, it will make them less susceptible to colds and other minor ailments, less irritable and better behaved. Sleep deprivation causes increased hyperactivity and other behavioural problems, as well as damaging physical and mental development. Poor sleep habits from an early age can lead to long term sleep problems.
“An increasing body of evidence shows the damaging effects on children and teenagers of getting less sleep than they need – from weight gain to depression, poor performance and concentration to reduced creative ability and lower immunity to diseases,” adds Lisa. “This comes at a time when the pressures of the modern world are definitely leading to decreased sleep times.
“There are so many different factors which can affect children’s sleep so parents should check the obvious causes first, such as room temperature, light, noise, hunger or thirst. Other influences are illness (actual or impending), changes or stress in the family.”
If your child is struggling to get a good night’s sleep, try following The Sleep Council’s sleeping tips for a great night at Easter – and all year round
- Establishing and sticking to a bedtime routine right from the start until early teens can go a long way to minimising later problems. This is normally along the lines of teatime, followed by quiet play, bath, story and then bed. Bedtime should be around the same time each evening (although on non-school nights, older children already established in a good sleep pattern may be allowed to stay up later).
- If your child can’t sleep don’t be tempted to get them back out of bed, instead encourage them to be quiet and lie down.
- Ensure the environment is right for sleep – it should be cool, quiet, dark and free from distraction. Ideally computers, gaming machines and TVs should be banned from the bedroom. However, if that’s unlikely, limit the use of these devices in the hour just before bedtime!
Sleep deprivation causes increased hyperactivity and other behavioural problems
- Don’t expect children to go to sleep immediately – after all, most adults don’t – and they should be allowed to read or play quietly until they drop off. It’s still promoting a relaxing environment.
- Avoid chocolate and other sugary treats and drinks too near to bedtime otherwise that sugar rush could keep children up all night!
- Try not to get cross with your child if they’re refusing to go to sleep. This only aggravates the situation and doesn’t aid a relaxing atmosphere.
- It’s also extremely important to make sure the bed is comfortable and supportive for a growing child – many parents think nothing of spending a fortune on shoes for a child’s growing feet but scrimp on a mattress.
- Know how much sleep your child needs. As a rule of thumb toddlers need around 12 hours of sleep a night; children aged four to six – 10.5-11.5 hours; six-12 years olds – 10 hours; and teenagers – around eight to nine hours.
- Never send children to bed if they’ve been naughty. It’s important the bedroom is known as a place of clam and relaxation, not anxiety or upset.
The Good-Night Guide For Children is available to download free from sleepcouncil.org.uk