Help Your Child On the Road to Goodnights And Better Mornings
Healthy sleep is vital, especially in babies, toddlers, young kids, and teens. In fact, we all need healthy sleep. Without enough of it, you get cranky and with time, unhealthy.
However, for children it’s very important as the effects of sleep deprivation may lead to lifelong problems. Inadequate slumber and low-quality snoozing can harm healthy development and growth in children. In addition, lack of sleep has been linked to obesity, behavior problems, high-risk activities, and other severe issues.
Therefore, as a parent, you need to make sure that your kids are getting better sleep. But how would you tell if your child isn’t sleeping enough? Easy. Look for symptoms, for instance, droopy eyes or constant yawning are easy to spot in a child. Others, however, aren’t as obvious. And that’s what we’re going to talk about in today’s article. Continue reading.
The Symptoms of Insufficient Sleep in Children
Young Children (Babies and Toddlers)
- Acts clingy, needy
- Is usually cranky, fussy, or whiny, especially in the late afternoon on a daily basis
- Has trouble sharing and taking turns
- Displays antsy, fidgety, or hyperactive behavior
- Falls asleep fast during short car rides
- Is not very talkative
- Wants to nap during the day
- Wakes up tired and falls asleep after being woken up
- Has a hard time changing from two/three naps to one nap a day
Kids in Elementary School
- Falls asleep at odd times
- Is Hyperactive
- Needs to be woken in the morning
- Lacks interest, motivation, alertness, and an attention span
- Has academic struggles
- Seems sleepy at school/home during homework
- Experiences sleepwalking/nightmares/night terrors for the first time
- Exhibits loud snoring or breaks in breathing at night
- Needs regular naps
- Has anxiety about being separated from the parent during the day and night
- Experiences mood swings
- Has extreme trouble waking up in the morning
- Feels unmotivated
- Has difficulty in concentrating
- Experiences mood swings and nervousness
- Acts short-tempered in the early afternoon
- Is aggressive
- Uses drugs
- Sleeps for long periods on the weekends
- Consumes a lot of caffeine
So, these are some of the most common symptoms you’re likely to notice in your child if he/she isn’t getting enough sleep. Once you spot the symptoms, it’s time to take the necessary steps to help fix your child’s sleeping problems.
Set an Individualized Bedtime
If you have a school-goer, they need between 9-11 hours of sleep each night. However, there are a few variabilities in sleep patterns and needs. Most children have patterns that usually never change no matter what you do. An early riser would wake up early even if you put them to bed late at night, and a night owl wouldn’t fall asleep until their body is ready to sleep. Set an appropriate bedtime based on how much sleep your child needs to wake up refreshed.
Set a Consistent Bedtime Routine
Routines are essential, especially for babies, toddlers, and preschoolers. Doing particular things before bed like a bath or story time, signal to their brain what’s coming next. It’s relaxing and comforting to know what comes next and sets the perfect bedtime atmosphere for your child. Before long, your child automatically starts to feel sleepy at the beginning of their routine.
Set a Wake-up Time
Once you know exactly how much sleep your child needs and when they go to bed, it’s easy to set daily wake-up time. While it’s okay to let your child sleep late at night on weekends and holidays, those extra hours of sleep can set you up for a long, sleepless night. This will affect your child’s sleep routine, making it harder for them to feel tired at bedtime. We suggest you keep bedtime and wake-up time the same every day.
Turn the TV off 2 Hours Before Bedtime
Studies have shown that the light from your television screen, computer monitor, or even phone can affect the production of the hormone melatonin in your child. Melatonin is a vital part of sleep-wake cycles. You feel sleepy and tired when melatonin levels are at their peak. Simply 30 minutes of screen time before bed can disrupt that enough to keep your children up for an extra 2/3 hours. Therefore, you need to make your child’s bedroom a screen-free zone or ensure all screens are completely dark from their bedtime on.
Set Up A Sleep-inducing Environment
A stuffed animal makes it easier for some kids to sleep. However, too many toys can make it harder. Room-darkening shades, soft sheets, and a quiet environment can help your kid differentiate between day and night. This will make them fall asleep quickly and easily.
Reduce Stress before Bedtime
Cortisol, also known as the “stress hormone,” is another hormone that plays an important role in sleep. When cortisol levels are at their highest in your child’s body, it won’t allow your child to fall asleep. Therefore, you need to keep the activities before bedtime calm, the lights off/dim, and the environment silent. This will help avoid those extra amounts of cortisol in your child’s body.
Reduce the Focus on Sleep
Just like us, adults, kids can also have a hard time switching their brains off for the night. Instead of increasing that anxiety by forcing your child to sleep, focus more on calming their body down.
Help them Fight Their Fears
Address the bedtime fears instead of dismissing them. If simple reassurance doesn’t do the job, try spraying the room with “monster spray” or getting a special kind of toy to stand guard at night.
Tip: A can of air freshener with a creative label will do the work just fine.
Keep It Cool
The sleep cycle of your child is not just dependent on light. It’s also very sensitive to temperature. While melatonin levels help to regulate the drop of your child’s internal body temperature required to sleep, it’s also important for you to regulate the external temperature. Make sure to keep the room temperature a little cooler to promote deep sleep.
To prevent your teens from being sleep deprived you can do the following:
- Make their bedroom a quiet place
- Get them to take a hot soak before bed
- Consider cutting the light out at night
- Get your teen to “chill out” before bedtime (yoga, meditation, etc.)
- Give them high-carb snacks
- Put them to bed if they’re sick
- Set rules of no caffeine a few hours before bedtime
- Also, set rules for no gaming/social media surfing before bedtime
- Get your teen in the habit of bringing light in the morning; early light of the day helps “reset” your teen’s brain to push their bedtime to an earlier hour
- Aromatherapy can boost sleep; orange blossom, chamomile, marjoram, and lavender scents are some of the soothing smells for bedtime
- Talk to your teen about the importance of sleep; be a good role model to them and set the tone by making a sleep priority in your life
If despite all your efforts, your child still continues to face difficulty in falling or staying asleep or has nightmares or night terrors, it’s possible they might have a sleep disorder. In that case, talk to their pediatrician about your concerns.