The changing seasons and daylight savings often lead to sleep difficulties for kids and families. Each day the sun sets later in the evening and many kids would rather stay up later. Children who do not get enough restful sleep are at risk for increased emotional outbursts, distractibility, and falling asleep at school. Many children have difficulty waking in the morning and sometimes an extra hour of sleep can help. The Sleep Foundation recommends children ages 3-5 get 10 to 13 hours of sleep, ages 6-13 get 9 to 11 hours, and ages 14-17 get 8 to 10 hours. These ranges can vary slightly but a good rule of thumb is “How much sleep does it take to wake rested?” It’s a good time to review healthy sleep habits.
The following tips will help children get a good night sleep:
-Exercise 60 minutes per day. Often recess and physical education at school are not enough.
-Develop a bedtime routine. Having the same bedtime each night can help get on a rhythm for sleep and wake cycles.
-Turn off electronics 30 minutes before bedtime. The light produced by a television, computer, and/or cell phone activate the brain into thinking its daylight. Turning off electronics and engaging in relaxing activities can get the mind ready for rest.
-Calming activities before bed like reading a story, taking a bath, using either of the relaxation examples below, and listening to soft music can help the body relax.
-Essential oils such as Gentle Baby and Lavender can be used to promote rest.
-Reduce or avoid caffeine in the afternoon. Caffeine can stay in the system for 4 to 6 hours. Even pop with dinner can keep them awake at bedtime.
-Warm liquids such as tea or milk can also encourage calmness. Avoid this tip if your child struggles with nighttime bed wetting.
Practice tensing and relaxing muscle groups to promote calmness.
Take a deep breath in. Squeeze your hands into fists while holding your breath for 3 seconds. Relax your hands and exhale. Repeat three times. Then say to yourself, “My hands are relaxed”.
Take a deep breath. Raise your arms over your head while holding your breath for 3 seconds. Release your arm back down. Repeat three times. Say to yourself, “My arms are relaxed.”
Take a deep breath in. Squeeze your shoulders up to your ears while holding your breath for 3 seconds. Relax your shoulders and exhale. Repeat three times and say to yourself “My shoulders are relaxed”.
Take a deep breath in. Tighten the muscles of your belly. Hold your breath for 3 seconds. Relax your belly and exhale. Repeat three times. Then say to yourself “My belly is relaxed”.
Take a deep breath in. Tense the muscles of your legs and bottom while holding your breath for 3 seconds. Release your legs and exhale. Repeat three times. Then say to yourself “My legs are relaxed”.
Take a deep breath in. Squeeze and curl your toes and hold your breath for 3 seconds. Relax your feet and exhale. Repeat three times. Then say to yourself “My feet are relaxed”.
Take a deep breath in. Squeeze all the muscles of your body while holding your breath for 3 seconds. Relax your body and exhale. Repeat three times. Then say to yourself “My body is relaxed”.
Use imagery like this to foster relaxation.
Lie down or find a comfortable place to sit. Breathe in deeply and out even more slowly. Close your eyes. Imagine you are floating on a soft fluffy cloud. You feel very safe on the cloud as it softly cradles your body. Your whole body feels heavy resting on the cloud. Notice your feet. Your feet feel very relaxed. Your feet feel so heavy that it would be hard to lift them even if you tried. Notice your legs. Your legs feel very loose and comfortable nestled into the cloud. There is a nice warm feeling traveling up your body, filling it with peace. Notice your stomach. It feels calm and filled with warmth. Be aware of your chest. Your chest is relaxed as it moved up and down slowly with each breath. Next notice your neck and shoulders. They feel soft and heavy. Feel the backs of your shoulders resting on the cloud, sinking in gently. Feel how relaxed your head is right now. Your head feels warm, pleasant, and heavy. Your head and face are very relaxed. Your mouth and eyes are free from stress. Allow your thoughts to come and go without worrying about anything. Everything is okay and you are feeling very calm and good. Enjoy the warm sensation calming you as it travels all around your body filling you with peace and relaxation.
If you continue to have concerns with your child’s sleep you can always contact your pediatrician or a mental health therapist.