Is your child getting enough sleep?

There is a growing body of research that shows an increasing number of children spend their formative years chronically sleep deprived and as a result suffer from impaired academic performance, reduced memory capacity and behavioural issues. A recent study showed just having an hour’s extra sleep over a 5-night period increased a child’s IQ level by 2 years.

“…an hour’s extra sleep over a 5-night period increased a child’s IQ level by 2 years.”

Insufficient sleep is also shown to strongly correlate with increased risks for a spectrum of health problems including obesity, vulnerability to colds and illnesses, accidents and emotional concerns.

Most children get far less sleep today than they did 30 years ago and the impact of even young children’s use of tablets, computers, televisions, mobile phones and gaming consoles in bedrooms is exacerbating this trend.

But the good news is there are very simple steps you can take right now, if you suspect your child is not getting enough sleep.

Get your routine right

30 to 40 minutes before your child goes to bed carry out the same series of steps every night – make this routine your bedtime ritual. Having a regular routine at about the same time every night means your child’s body will start to prepare for sleep as soon as you start this process.

The lead up to bed

About an hour before your child goes to sleep have quiet time. Tidy away the toys and turn off the TV. Research has shown light from computers, iPads etc. can interfere with the production of the sleep hormone melatonin.

If your child is hungry at this time, avoid sugary foods and drinks. Instead offer foods that contain the amino acid tryptophan that causes sleepiness. The best snacks should contain carbohydrates and protein and are found in foods such as chicken or turkey with brown bread, peanut butter on whole grain cereal or low sugar cereal and milk.

Warm bath

Have a warm, relaxing bath lasting no longer than 10 minutes. Keeping the bath to a maximum of 10 minutes means bath time doesn’t become a stimulating play time. The added bonus is coming out of the warm water allows the body to cool quickly triggering the sleep hormone melatonin. Then go straight into your child’s bedroom; going back into the living area at this time will lose the focus and magic of the routine.

Lighting

Pre-dim the lights in the bedroom, as this will also help with melatonin production.

Dress for bed

Have their night clothes ready for your return from the bathroom so they can quickly get dressed and climb into bed.

Story time

Read a story and have a cuddle and kiss goodnight then tuck them in with their favourite soft toy so they are warm and cosy.

Now that they’re drowsy, leave the bedroom so that they learn to fall asleep independently.

 

Mandy Gurney is the founder of Millpond Children’s Sleep Clinic and has been advising on baby, toddler and school aged child sleep issues for approaching thirty years. She is a qualified nurse, midwife and health visitor.  

Commissioned by the NHS since 2007, Mandy delivers sleep workshops for health professionals across the UK and Ireland; whilst mentoring NHS Trusts with their own sleep clinics. She is a key note speaker presenting at The Baby Show London, The Baby and Toddler Show and she delivers sleep seminars in the workplace and for schools.

Mandy is the author of both “Teach Your Child to Sleep” (Hamlyn, 2005 & 2016), which has sold tens of thousands of copies worldwide and been translated into ten different languages, and “In The Night Garden-The Bedtime Book”, (Ladybird 2016).

She presents alongside Professor Robert Winston in The Essential Parent Company’s comprehensive DVD guide to babies sleeping; and is commissioned regularly to present sleep information videos for “In The Night Garden”.  Mandy is also frequently asked to give expert comment on both TV and Radio and writes regularly for well-known parenting magazines and online parenting sites. She is the sleep consultant for many household brands.


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