In honour of Children’s Mental Health Week, founder of The Sleep Nanny® Lucy Shrimpton shares her tips for helping little ones get a good night’s sleep
As we endure the pandemic, children experience similar stresses as we adults do, often taking even more worry on if they see or sense the upset in adults around them, or lose family members they held dear. Together with this pain and sadness, one of the biggest things that impacts on a child’s mental health is the amount of sleep they get each night.
When we are not getting enough sleep, our ability to engage our rational mind is compromised and we are more inclined to respond to things from a place of emotion rather than logic. Adults and children who are not getting enough sleep during this challenging time are also being forced to spend copious amounts of time together without change of scenery or change of company and this can seriously impact mental wellbeing.
Getting enough sleep can make a huge difference!
So, from years of experience of working with parents each day who are struggling to get their children to sleep through the night, here are my top tips on how to help your child have a thorough night’s sleep (so you can too)! If you succeed, you will no doubt see a huge impact in your child’s mental wellbeing:
Get into a routine
The most important piece of advice is to get your child into a consistent bedtime routine where the cue and rhythm of the evening will help them settle. That could be a bath before bed, or a relaxing bedtime story together. Remember, a consistent bedtime for children up to the age of eight should be between 6pm and 8pm so try to stick to it.
Create an open and honest environment
Be open to talk to your child about any concerns they have right now so they are not up all night worrying about things. Be as honest and open as you can be without scaring them. If they want to discuss the changes going on in the world, let them share their worries with you.
While you’ve not got the remedy to the problem, talking about their feelings will help allay some of their anxieties, bring you closer and hopefully not wake them up at night.
Be as consistent as you can. So, if your little one wakes up in the night and wants to crawl into your bed to sleep, don’t allow it one night and then turn them down the next night as that will confuse them. Be consistent either way – yes or no.
Shield them from unnecessary stress
When you are discussing the pandemic, or any bad news that will affect the family, do it behind closed doors, away from your child. They don’t need to know everything that’s going on – that could only worry them. Try your best to protect them while managing their expectations about the future and things like holidays or presents if finances are tough.
Ensure they get time outside
Make sure your child gets around an hour of fresh air each day. It really does help a person sleep better, no matter how old they are.
Avoid letting them get overtired
One of the roots of all sleep problems is over tiredness. So, even if it might be tempting to let them stay up late as a special treat or encourage them to go to bed later in the hope that they’ll wake up earlier, don’t! It will likely make things worse.
Have screen-free time before bed
iPads, computers and the TV have been lifesavers while we’ve all been homeschooling and looking after our kids during the pandemic but be weary that they don’t spend too much time on them, particularly before bed. Make sure they’re away from their screens for at least an hour before they go to sleep because that blue light will only help to keep them awake.
Avoid sugar and caffeine before bed
We all know the dangers of giving children too much sugar or caffeine but make sure you don’t give any just before bed. This will cause a surge of alertness just as they’re meant to be drifting off.
Keep nap time consistent
For toddlers and little children, keep your nap times consistent during the day. And sustain these naps until they are around three and a half or four years old. Little children with really alert temperaments will appear not to need (or want!) these naps but they actually need it more and for longer than their more laid back peers. Children over three who are sleeping a solid 12 hours a night probably won’t need a nap.
Get professional support
If you are really struggling to sustain a regular sleep pattern for your child, then get help from a professional sleep nanny. There is really no need to suffer and you are jeopardising your and your family’s health and wellbeing. And, with online zoom calls, it’s easier than ever to get that help.
If anxiety or other mental health concerns are affecting the family, visit Counselling Directory to find a therapist to support you.