While over one-third of Americans regularly experience sleep deprivation, children shouldn't have to suffer the same fate.
Most adults don't have great sleep patterns and probably don't want that to trickle down to their children. By practicing good sleep habits early, you can keep kids healthy and resting well into their adulthood and also get some better sleep yourself in the process.
Benefits of Good Sleeping Habits
Sleep is crucial to life, just like food, air and water. No one can go without sleep, but that doesn't mean that people won't try to minimize the amount of time they are in bed. This is a dangerous trend that negatively impacts people but proves especially damaging to kids.
Going without the proper amount of sleep can mimic the effects of intoxication. It makes you feel groggy, moody, affects attention span and much more. Probably not things you want your kids to deal with on a regular basis.
Sleep is also imperative for cognitive functions. Memory and motor skills are largely impacted by sleep. Without the proper amount of rest, these functions can become impaired, which can affect learning and test scores. Kids need these skills that sleep supports on a daily basis to perform well in school and learn new things.
A healthy sleep regimen offers many benefits, including a lower risk of heart disease, diabetes, obesity and depression. For kids, studies have shown strong links to sleep and weight, as well as sleep and food choices. If your child is getting the recommended amount of sleep, they have much better chances of staying fit and healthy.
Begin With Bedtime
The first place to start overhauling your child's sleeping habits is bedtime. Make sure that they are going to bed at the proper time to wake up at the desirable hour in the morning, and getting enough hours in bed each night.
This varies for different ages, with the general rule of thumb being that the older your kids get, the less they need to sleep -- but even teens require more rest than adults. The National Sleep Foundation provides helpful guidelines and sleep requirements by children's age.
Enforcing a strict bedtime with a consistent routine preceding is beneficial for their bodies. If you reserve certain activities only for bedtime, you will associate them with going to sleep. Our bodies love schedules. Make sure that your routine follows the same pattern. Some calming activities might include reading a story, nighttime yoga, or a warm bath or shower.
Wake Up On Time (Including Weekends)
Waking up at the right time is just as crucial to having healthy sleep habits as going to bed.
Consistently getting out of bed around the same time every day lets our body settle into a rhythm. This rhythm, as discussed before, is helpful for growing bodies that need as much restorative time as possible. Shocks to your kids' sleeping system, like staying up super late one night and sleeping in for a long time the next day, can have negative effects.
This can create sleep debt and make it troublesome to sleep at normal hours during the week. A standard wake up time will also help avoid oversleeping and issues with waking up on Monday morning
Nap Only When Needed
For younger kids that need a lot of sleep, naps are a necessity. Even if your kids are a bit older, taking a nap here and there can be great to recharge during a long day. However, napping for too long or too close to bed can impact getting to bed at night.
The rhythm at which we wake and sleep can become disrupted quite easily by a misplaced nap time. Make sure that naps are scheduled for earlier in the day and don't run long. For older kids, teens and adults, around 30 minutes or less and near lunchtime is best for naps.
Reserve The Bed For Sleeping Only
Jumping around and playing on the bed are definitely fun things to do. However, these and other activities that aren't related to sleep work to break the association between the bed and going to sleep. This association is definitely precious.
Without it, your child might only want to play around at bedtime instead of actually trying to go to sleep. Only your bedtime routine should involve the mattress and any playtime or otherwise should be done elsewhere.
Choose Smarter Bedtime Snacks
Having a snack before bed can hold over hungry stomachs until the morning. But choosing the right snack can make or break your evening routine. If you munch on something that has a lot of sugar or is high in protein or fat, you and your kids might be wired for the rest of night, leading to sleep loss and tiredness during the next day.
Simple snacks like cheese and crackers, a banana or some nuts are great options for nighttime snacks. Your kids will be able to sleep without feeling hungry or wired from excess energy. Whole grains and small amounts of protein are the best bets for keeping stomachs full without affecting rest.
Your snack time should also be at least an hour before bedtime. That will ensure lying down doesn't disrupt digestion. Cut off any liquids at this time too so you can get everything out before the lights go out.
Send Screens Bye-Bye Before Bedtime
When getting your nighttime routine set, don't rely on electronics for any part. The screens on TVs, phones, tablets and computers give off a blue light that has been suggested to tell the brain that you should be awake. This is not the ideal thing to do right before bedtime.
TVs, phones, tablets and whatever else should be ditched at least a half hour to an hour before bed. Falling asleep with the TV on or with phones in the bedroom will be detrimental to the amount of time that your children actually sleep.
Other activities that could replace looking at a screen could include doing nighttime stretches or yoga, reading a paper book or talking about the day and reflecting on it.
Set Your Kids Up For Success
Sleep simply isn't a priority in today's world for many people. Looking to the future, however, we are constantly learning about the important and essential role it plays in health and happiness.
Getting children to bed with healthy habits is crucial for their growth. Having a consistent sleep schedule allows your child to be as healthy as possible. You'll also be teaching them from an early age the importance of sleep. Talk to your children about how sleeping will help them remember more, feel better, and be more successful.
Teaching kids the importance of a full night's sleep will help the next generation become more productive and healthy.
Do you have a strict bedtime for your kids? Is sleeping a priority in your child's life? What do you do with your children to get them to bed?
Firas Kittaneh is the CEO of Amerisleep, an eco-friendly luxury mattress company. Firas writes more posts on the Amerisleep blog about getting better sleep, healthy living and being eco-friendly. Follow him on Twitter.