The importance of good quality sleep cannot be underestimated and furthermore, since sleep affects every system in the body, it is vital to maintaining overall health. Consequently, sleep is the underpin of mental health, physical health, quality of life, and overall wellness. As children prepare to head back into the classroom, they (and their parents) may be excited or anxious which could cause some sleep issues. But fear not, better sleep for the whole family can be achieved with a little effort and forethought.
Why do we need sleep?
A lack of sleep can impact your and your child’s concentration, memory and behaviour among other things. Clearly this is not ideal in a work or school setting. Further, sleep is fundamentally tied to our immune system, to children’s developing brains and bodies and to pretty much every aspect of health. As one of the 4 pillars of wellness, sleep is inextricably linked with the other 3 – Nutrition, Mental Wellness and Exercise. To stay healthy, we really need our sleep.
How much sleep do we actually need?
Newborn babies, small children, and teenagers need much more sleep than adults to support their mental and physical development. For optimal health, here are the recommended number of hours required.
|Age:||Recommended amount of sleep:|
|Newborns||16-18 hours a day|
|Preschool-aged children||11-12 hours a day|
|School-aged children||At least 10 hours a day|
|Teens||9-10 hours a day|
|Adults (including the elderly)||7-8 hours a day|
How to gauge if your child is tired?
Sometimes it’s difficult to determine just how tired your children may be. Often sleepy children don’t necessarily slow down the way adults do and instead they may amp up in an effort to stay awake. Overtired children sometimes resist bedtime and become hyperactive later in the evening, acting as if they’re not tired.
Tips to achieve optimal sleep
It’s a good idea to commit to consistent sleep habits and healthy routines which allow every member of the family to meet their individual sleep needs every night. Here’s how:
- Have a nightly routine (or ritual) with enough wind-down time to relax into sleep. This may include 30 minutes of quiet activities in the bedroom such as reading, stretching, sharing stories, yoga or relaxation breathing exercises.
- Switch off all screens at least an hour before sleep time. This goes for phones, ipads, TVs and computers. It’s best if these devices are not in the bedroom. Studies have proven the light from the screens disrupts our sleep patterns.
- Ensure you’ve been physically active during the day – 1 hour of exercise/play for children and at least 30 minutes/day for adults but avoid vigorous exercise and sports at night. The stimulation and increase in body temperature can make it harder to go to sleep.
- Eat dinner at least 2 hours before bedtime. Feeling too full before bed can make it harder to fall asleep and have good quality sleep.
- Ensure a quiet, dark, cool room for sleeping comfortably.
- Stick with the same bedtime and wake-up time every day.
In case that’s not enough try these ideas:
- A warm bath in the evening can be very calming. Epsom salts can help unwind and relax muscles plus the magnesium in the bath salts is a great sleep aid.
- Try essential oils like lavender or chamomile – these scents are helpful sleep-inducers. Try a pillow spray or scented body lotion.
- Have a family chat to explain the importance of sleep, especially to the teens in your house, and create a routine together.
If you want to improve the quality of your life, improve the quality of your sleep.