Healthy Living

5 tips to help your child get a good night’s sleep

This post is brought to you by The Sleep Judge

We all lead full, fast-paced and frantic lives these days. Busy-ness has almost become something cool, something to strive for. It’s not just adults who are busy juggling home and work and families but kids and teens seem to be far busier these days than I ever remember being. When children and teens present to me with non-clinical anxiety, depression or stress, one of the common things I notice is their lack of sleep. While for some it is a symptom of their mental health, for most of them, it’s not the case. It’s just life.

What are the facts?

Primary school children need on average, 9 to 11 hours of sleep. Teenagers need about 8 to 10 hours of sleep. From the same source, a study reported that only 15 percent of teens claimed to get 8.5 hours of sleep on a school night. For most of my clients, the things that keep them up late are homework, assignments, loads of activities after school, too many thoughts running through their heads and the big one — social media.

How to get a good night’s sleep:

1. Have a good sleep routine

Kids and teens need a sleep routine; one that is consistent and continues through the weeknights. Ensure they have a set bed time from Sunday to Thursday. A sleep routine needs to be one that helps them wind down the hour or so before bed. For example, a child who has to go to bed by 9 will need to start to wind down by 8. They can do this by putting away their books, packing their bags for the next day, taking a hot shower, brushing their teeth, saying goodnight to everyone in the family, have someone read to them or read themselves before finally falling asleep. Ensure they have a comfortable mattress to sleep on. A sleep routine would most likely involve the rest of the tips in this post.

2. Say no to technology

Technology appears to be the biggest bane for parents and the hardest to manage. Get in early with managing technology and set boundaries and guidelines from a young age. I always dissuade parents from having televisions and computers in a child or teen’s room. A desktop computer needs to be in a common area and if the child has a laptop from school, they need to pack it away an hour before bedtime and leave it in the lounge room or your room. The same thing goes with their smart phones. Screens need to be avoided at least an hour before bed as the light from phones and laptops actually stimulates the brain therefore making it harder to wind down.

3. Avoid working on the bed

As part of daily habits, ensure that your child or teen only uses their bed for sleeping. {For us adults, the same thing is useful — sleep and sex}. If they try and get homework done on their bed or any other kind of work, the bed gets associated with stressful activities and consequently, is no longer a relaxing space. Remember Pavlov’s dog? It’s exactly like that. The more work that’s done on beds, the more it becomes associated with stress and being active.

4. A glass of milk goes a long way

As part of a sleep routine, give your child a glass of warm milk. Milk has tryptophan in it which, in the body, gets converted into sleep-inducing hormones of serotonin and melatonin. Avoid highly sugary foods in the evening and definitely no caffeinated drinks for your teen! For teens who think they are too cool for milk, chamomile tea can also be helpful.

5. Meditation or relaxation

This is especially helpful for those kids and teens who find their mind is constantly running. The point of meditation and relaxation exercises is not to stop your mind from running — no one can do that. It’s about allowing things to come and go but not really getting hooked on it. Ironically, there are some great apps for meditation but as a parent, you could monitor it and play it before taking the device away. In time, your child might be able to do the exercises without the use of an app. Another good relaxation strategy I teach my clients is Progressive Muscle Relaxation. The focus is on tensing and relaxing each muscle and most of my clients report they fall asleep before they finish the exercise.

Bonus tip

Apart from these tips, a general one would be to let your child and teen have some downtime. They don’t need a screen all the time, they don’t really need to stay up late doing homework as long as they have tried the best they can in the evening, they don’t need sporting or musical activities filling every hour of the day. It’s important to have days without scheduled activities so they know how to relax and chill. Because in the end, sleep is important for their wellbeing. No matter how much they might rebel against it.

Have you got any strategies you use with your children?

Do share!

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5 Comments

  • Reply
    Denyse Whelan Blogs
    August 19, 2016 at 4:15 pm

    Great tips and I hope they help some families. The tech use is one we all know about but some families find it hard to ‘wrest’ items from their kids. Of course teens seem programmed to go to sleep later and wake later and something that continues to be a battle for getting to school. Hard one, this sleep thing but it’s good to know that you have some help and ideas on offer.
    Denyse Whelan Blogs recently posted…The Blue Mountains N.S.W. Australia. 366/232.My Profile

  • Reply
    Hugzilla
    August 19, 2016 at 5:01 pm

    Yep I am a stickler for sleep routine with my two kids and making sure they get to bed at the same time every night. It’s PJs, teeth, book and then bed promptly at around 7pm. Works well for us and there are never any hassles or room for argument because we play it the same way every night. Great post.
    Hugzilla recently posted…The shit thing about being a parent is that you can’t tell dickheads to fuck offMy Profile

  • Reply
    Kate
    August 19, 2016 at 9:14 pm

    The no screens thing is a biggy for us. Two of my kids really struggle to sleep if they have small screen time close to bedtime, so we have a general ‘no screens after dinner’ rule that helps a lot.
    Thanks for the great tips

  • Reply
    Grace
    August 22, 2016 at 2:19 pm

    I can always tell when my kids need more sleep! It’s not pretty! And even when they get the 9-11 hours, sometimes especially when there’s lots happening at school, they need more.
    Downtime is important. Sometimes we take a day off school. 6 year olds need mental health days too.
    Grace recently posted…FYBF – Celebrating in SolitudeMy Profile

  • Reply
    Gwyneth Clover
    May 2, 2017 at 5:26 pm

    Between the ages of three and five is when most children start to fight the nap process. Most children are not napping anymore during the daytime at the age of five. However, they should still be getting up to ten to twelve hours of sleep. Whether or not your child can function without a daytime nap is up to your child as an individual, however, getting the right amount of sleep is very important for your child’s health. If you cannot get your child to fall asleep for a nap during the day, some kind of ‘rest time’ may help. During our ‘quiet time’ at my house, the children are allowed to look at books on their beds for the two hours. Sometimes they fall asleep and sometimes they do not. The important part is the fact that they give their bodies a chance to rest.

    Cheerio!
    Gwyneth Clover recently posted…Health and beauty benefits of cornMy Profile

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