Sleep plays an integral role in a child’s physical, mental, and emotional health. Well-rested children are happier, experience less stress during challenging times, and relate better with other people.
Studies show consistent adequate sleep helps to create a robust immune system, enhanced focus and memory, improved problem-solving skills, and better academic performance.
According to the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), children’s recommended hours of sleep are 10-13 hours for pre-school age and 9-12 hours for grade school age.
Unfortunately, about 30 percent of the young population don’t get enough sleep, and it’s causing physical, mental, and emotional difficulties for them.
The good news is, there’s a solution: cultivating healthy daytime and nighttime habits for your kids.
Whether they don’t meet the recommended amount of sleep or you simply want them to receive the many benefits of an adequate slumber, here are some helpful habits you can easily incorporate into your children’s daily routine.
Getting some sun is a cheerful way to start the day. It stimulates the production of serotonin, aka the “feel-good hormone,” and the body converts surplus serotonin into melatonin at nighttime, aka the “sleep hormone.” Melatonin not only facilitates a child’s natural sleeping patterns; it also improves concentration and memory, strengthens the immune system, and boosts energy.
An active day makes for a restful night. Sixty minutes of exercise each day can do wonders for a child’s sleep as it allows them to sleep faster and longer. Encourage your kids – or better yet, join them – to exercise by doing activities they will enjoy, be it biking, chasing the frisbee or doing yoga.
No sweets in the evening
It’s common knowledge that sweets instantly raise energy levels – but at nighttime, it’s a recipe for disaster. Sugar in the evening, whether in the form of candy, cookies, or beverages, will cause your kids to stay awake longer with a lot of restless energy. Nighttime sugar consumption also leads to heightened brain activity during sleep, which increases nightmare tendencies.
Create a bedtime routine
Having a bedtime routine allows the brain to communicate with the rest of the body that it’s time to wind down in preparation for sleep. An example of a practical pre-slumber routine is a refreshing shower, brushing teeth, and a bedtime story, meditation, or restorative yoga. Another beautiful way to ensure your little ones sleep deeply and soundly every night is with a few spritz of our Dream Aromatherapy Spray around their bedroom. With gentle warming notes of witch hazel, vetiver, lavender and roman chamomile this mist will infuse the air around them, helping them to slowly take stock of the day before drifting off into a quiet, peaceful sleep.
An attitude of gratitude
Here is a great one to add to your children’s bedtime routine and even better to their daily lives: an attitude of gratitude. Before they go to bed, have them recall what happened in their day for which they are grateful. They can write it down in a journal or recite it out loud. Positive thoughts activate dopamine production, aka the “happy hormone,” which calms the mind after a hectic day.
This activity promotes mindfulness practice in children, where they pay conscious attention to what happens each day. Being mindful cultivates appreciation for all the big and small things, from birds chirping in the morning to solving a puzzle, from having food on the table to getting a star in class. You can set an example by giving gratitude statements like:
“I am grateful for my soft bed; it makes my sleep comfortable.”
“I am grateful for the good weather today; we were able to go to the park.”
“I am grateful for the roast chicken dinner; it was delicious and good for my health.”
Turn off all artificial lights
Once the day turns into night, the brain signals the pineal gland to start producing melatonin so sleep time can begin. The brain tends to confuse artificial light with sunlight, inhibiting melatonin production. Turn off all bedroom lights for a restful sleep, including blue light from your kids’ gadgets such as phones and tablets.
Aim for peace and quiet
A tranquil environment is most conducive for slumber, so make sure to turn off the TV or radio and set a time limit for bedtime chatter if your kids share a room. If you live in a noisy neighborhood, you can invest in a white noise machine to block off noises that could otherwise disrupt their sleep.
A good night’s sleep is a fundamental part of a growing child’s health and wellness, yet it could be so elusive sometimes. With consistent practice of these new healthy habits, it’ll be easy to send off your kids to sweet, sweet dreamland – and, as a bonus, you’ll get your peaceful rest, too.