Sleep – it’s one of the most important ingredients for creating happy, healthy and thriving children. Unfortunately, many children simply don’t get enough of it.
The NHS guidelines state children aged four years old should have 11.5 hours a night, 11 hours when they are five and then reducing by roughly 15 minutes per year. Between the ages of 14 and 16 they should be getting at least nine hours a night.
Does your child get the recommended amount of sleep? If not, this may be affecting their ability to learn, cope with life, energy levels and general emotional and physical wellbeing. Unfortunately, school holidays, clock changes, worries and lifestyles often conspire against healthy sleep patterns. So how can we help our children get the rest they need?
Children’s health and wellbeing charity the Sunflower Trust has put together some practical tips and advice to help:
Simple changes to the bedtime routine and bedroom environment can help to increase the amount of sleep your child gets. Here are some top tips for creating good sleep hygiene:
- Keep screens out of bedrooms and stop screen usage an hour before bedtime.
- Try some breathing exercises together as part of the bedtime routine.
- Enjoy a story or a calm board or card game in the run-up to bedtime.
- Set aside time to chat about their day before bed – for anxious children this can be a time to talk about worries, write them down and ‘put them away’ for the night. Finish this with some positive thoughts.
- Try to keep bedtimes the same during school holidays/weekends as much as possible. Late nights can disrupt the sleep pattern for days.
- Ensure the bedroom is tidy, cool and as dark and quiet as possible
It’s also important to be mindful of what food you offer your child as a bedtime snack – especially if they struggle to sleep. Foods that work well include:
- Bananas – as they contain tryptophan, which helps induce sleep
- Chicken or turkey also contain tryptophan
- Oily fish – this contains B6 and essential fatty acids that will assist sleep
- Foods that contain melatonin, including cherries, tomatoes, asparagus, broccoli, olives, grapes
- Grains eg rice, rolled oats, barley
- Nuts and seeds
If you would like to learn more about sleep and child health issues, or you feel your child needs support, contact the Sunflower Trust: 01483 531498. Email: [email protected], website: www.sunflowertrust.com