FQ Expert

Off to the Land of Nod – Sleep Tips for Kids

[Image - Daniel Nanescu]
Written by Tim Barnes-Clay

If bedtime is proving a tricky part of the day, check out these tips from sleep expert Dr Nerina Ramlakhan.

Getting kids to drift off can easily become a titanic struggle; not only cutting into parents’ downtime, but potentially leading to behavioural problems and impaired performance at school.

“An astonishing 90% of school children aren’t getting enough sleep, meaning the benefits of establishing a good night time routine for children have never been more important.” 

Although routine is crucial to good sleeping habits, it seems lots of children are paying the price for their constant exposure to technology. According to Ofcom, one in three children now own a tablet, which also forms part of their bedtime routine. This is despite recent research from the University of California – amongst many other studies – finding that ‘small screens’ can have a detrimental effect on sleep. 

Silentnight’s sleep expert, Dr Nerina Ramlakhan, says: “Children need and thrive on routine. By establishing a routine with a set bedtime, children are able to relax and therefore fall asleep easier. Now is the perfect time to reassess your family’s sleep habits. Each bedtime routine depends on the child, but try something comforting, for example: milk, a bath, a story and a cuddle. Those 60 to 90 minutes before bed are crucial to the length and quality of your child’s sleep.”

If your child is a sensitive sleeper, Dr Nerina has some simple sleep tips to help establish a good pattern:

Nutrition and hydration – your child’s nutrition can play a vital role in helping them get a good sleep. Good nutrition helps them to make the sleep hormone Melatonin. Ensure that your child eats breakfast every day and ideally within about 30mins of getting out of bed. Try to ensure that they’re also drinking at least one litre of fluids per day – dehydration can cause more frequent waking during the night.

Safety and security – in other words, we sleep well when we feel safe and secure. For an adult this might mean that the front door is locked, the inbox is empty and there is food in the cupboard. For a child, it becomes more basic and a calm sleep environment is particularly key, such as the light levels and sound – if your child wakes at the slightest noise, it might be worth experimenting with a white noise machine or smells such as lavender or eucalyptus.

Stimulation – this is a particularly important consideration if your child is a very sensitive sleeper and tends to engage with information more readily. Minimise time spent with their computer, tablet or TV, ideally allowing at least 60 – 90 minutes of technology-free time before bed. Reading in bed can also be a great way of winding down.

Reassurance and rest – if your child is going through a tough patch with their sleep, try to reassure them as much as possible. If the word ‘sleep’ is becoming a bit of a stress-inducer, you can encourage them to think about resting rather than sleeping.