As the weather gets warmer and the light stays for longer in the evenings, many children will be struggling to fall asleep. It may be that this has always been an issue for your child, or that the reduced structure of routines as of late have impacted on your child’s sleep schedule. Sleep hygiene relates to the habits and practices which help us to sleep well. In this blog we will explore the importance of sleep, learn how much sleep your child should be getting, and we’ll share some top tips for supporting with sleep hygiene.
Why is sleep important?
Sleep plays a vital role in maintaining our health and wellbeing. In childhood, this is also the time where our brains process and consolidate information learned throughout the day which then supports with memory. Sleep deprivation can impact on mental health, physical health, quality of life, and safety. In order to be alert throughout the day, we need to sleep for an appropriate period of time to allow our body to restore itself to a state of ‘homeostasis’ – our normal level of function.
How much sleep do children need?
Children need different amounts of sleep depending on their age; sleep is essential for healthy social, emotional, cognitive and physical development. The following amount of sleep is recommended to support with healthy development:
- Birth – 1 year: 12-16 hours.
- 1 – 2 years: 11-14 hours.
- 3 – 5 years: 10-13 hours.
- 6 – 12 years: 9-12 hours.
- 13 – 18 years: 8-10 hours.
What are the signs of sleep difficulties?
If your child is struggling with sleep, you’re probably already aware of this due to the disruption to your own sleeping patterns. Just in case, we have included some of the signs and symptoms of disordered sleep:
- Difficulty falling and staying asleep
- Daytime fatigue
- Falling asleep during the day
- Anxious behaviour
- Low mood
- Reversed sleeping pattern
Why do children struggle with sleep?
There are a range of reasons that children may experience difficulties with sleep:
- Night time incontinence
If your child experiences night time incontinence, this may result in a disrupted sleeping pattern. Your child may also struggle to fall asleep if they are worried about being incontinent when they do fall asleep.
- Allergies or respiratory difficulties (e.g. asthma)
Allergies, colds, chest infections, or respiratory difficulties such as asthma can make it particularly challenging to breathe with ease while lying down, which may impact on sleep.
- Stress and Anxiety
If your child is experiencing stress during the day, this may impact on their sleep quality. Causes of stress can include bullying, changes in routine, family disputes, world events, and fears/ phobias.
- Sensory processing difficulties
Some children struggle to sleep as a result of sensory processing difficulties; they may be irritated by the texture of bedding, hypersensitive to noises within the environment, or require deep pressure such as a weighted blanket in order to go to sleep.
- Sleep disorders
In some cases, children may be experiencing a sleeping disorder such as sleep apnoea, sleepwalking, insomnia, or narcolepsy.
How can I help my child to sleep?
Following sleep hygiene advice can support with regulation of sleep routines and promote increased sleep at the right times. Some of our favourite tips and tricks for sleep hygiene include:
Develop a bedtime routine which starts 1-2 hours before bed; perhaps include a bath, bedtime drink, cuddle, or story. This can help your child to recognise that bedtime is approaching and over time they will recognise these events as cues to become sleepy.
- Keep beds for sleep
Beds should be kept for sleeping; avoid using technology in bed as this makes it more difficult to associate this room with sleep.
- Keep the air flowing
If possible, try to prevent bedrooms from becoming hot and stuffy. It is easier for the body to fall asleep when cool as opposed to hot. Use quiet fans and keep the windows open on warm days.
- Use relaxation techniques
If your child doesn’t seem to know how to get to sleep, practice deep breathing and muscle relaxation exercises with closed eyes, to get used to feeling relaxed.
- Avoid sugar and caffeine
Avoid sugary drinks and sweets in the late afternoon and evening as this can cause hyperactivity and can impact on sleep quality.
- Use sensory adaptations
To help associate bed time with sleep, using sensory adaptations such as an aromatherapy diffuser, white noise machine, or weighted blankets while falling asleep may be beneficial.
We hope this blog has helped to understand a little more about the importance of sleep and sleep hygiene. If you have any questions about this topic, you can email us at firstname.lastname@example.org. Thank you for reading.