Sleep is a fundamental component of a healthy lifestyle. The mental and physical benefits are extensive and well-documented. While some of the mechanics of what happens when we sleep is still a mystery, we know this period is useful for a number of reasons, such as to convert information from the day, supporting our immune systems, and growth. The needs for each process differs from individual to individual and, when considering a family of different ages, these needs can benefit or disrupt each other.
The amount of sleep a child needs is dependent on age. Infants need the most, new-borns up to a year old should sleep for roughly fourteen hours a day, some as naps with the remainder at night. This continues into the toddler stage, with recommendations for a nap during the day and roughly 12 hours a night. By four years old children should no longer need naps (although this is up to parents!) Between the ages of four and six the amount of sleep a night should begin to decrease. As a rule of thumb, for every year a child ages, they will need roughly fifteen minutes less until they enter the teen years where they need 9 hours right up until adulthood.
When it comes to the quality of sleep a child achieves, a routine is paramount to promoting healthy sleep. Our body clocks are sensitive to regularity and disruption as they constantly work to know when our bodies will be able to rest. As such, introducing regular night time activities can help your children fall asleep much more easily.
- A warm bath can help your child to relax and get them ready to sleep.
- Keep the lights dim to encourage the production of melatonin, the sleep hormone.
- Once your child is in bed, try to urge them to read or read with them – avoid electronics as it is well documented that the light emitted from electronics disrupts sleep. The light has similar effects to sunlight and so it tricks the body into thinking it is still daytime and keeps our minds stimulated.
- Meditation can be a difficult activity for children, but dedicating time to a relaxing activity is worthwhile. It helps the body be prepared and more easily enter into a deep restorative sleep by relaxing muscles and quieting thoughts before sleeping, which works for children too!
Some children find it difficult in winter, they struggle with sleeping in cold weather. This can be for a myriad of reasons, such as the drier air, frequent colds and coughs, as well as low temperatures. Try adding more blankets comfort items to the bed to stave off the chill and reach the optimal comfort level. The dry air and increased use of the central heating can affect the skin and hair in addition to causing snoring, muscle cramps and a scratchy throat. While these are all easily remedied with a humidifier, more blankets are a cheaper and safer alternative.
Warm food and drink before bed can help you and your children sleep well too. Promising you avoid eating and drinking caffeine or anything spicy, there are many meals that actually help you to sleep. Since a routine is great for your body clock, a regular hot drink before sleep can work wonders for your night’s rest.