We are currently living in a digital era, where everything happens with the click of a button or with a simple touch on the screen. Now while many of us are adjusting to the new normal of working from home, our kids are adjusting to studying from home. Which means a change in the daily routine structures for all of us. As a result of which we are commonly seeing changes in the sleep cycle of our children.
We have heard many parents say, ‘Oh, but exactly at the time I am ready to wind down and ready to hit the bed, my child wants to become so active that he can lead the whole army in the jungle’, or the child says, ‘but I don’t feel like sleeping now, can I watch a cartoon and then sleep’, or ‘why do I have to sleep so early, when I don’t want to’. These are few of the many struggles many parents have to face.
Let us first understand the importance of a good night’s sleep for the child and later we will talk about how we can help our child wind down and make him/her get to bed quicker with a well-rested sleep.
Deep sleep helps our body to rest deeply and repair the wear and tear the body had to go through the day. It is also directly linked with the development of brain cells and better neuronal connections, thus leads to an improved sensory and motor processing; which further leads to increased attention and regulation and develops better neuroplastic connections, which helps in meaningful learning. A night of good sleep also helps in muscle and joint relaxations.
When the body is in a state of a deep sleep, the brain shrinks to about 60% of its size which leads to better elimination of toxins from the brain and this promotes the healthy development of the brain cells. Researches have also shown that well-rested and deep sleep promotes improved social development and also helps in understanding emotions and developing better relationships with others. It also promotes positive stress coping mechanisms and broadens one’s perspective-taking abilities.
Good sleep helps in improving our body’s immunity. A hormone called Human growth hormone which is responsible for cell growth, development and regeneration is secreted during the deep sleep cycle.
Let us understand what will you observe when your child does not get a good sleep
- Winding down will be difficult. You may see your child needs to be rocked or patted to sleep and take a long time to fall asleep.
- Will wake up multiple times in the middle of the night.
- Wakes up feeling groggy and takes longer than usual to wake up.
- Feels lethargic, difficulty in paying attention, and may seem cranky and irritable through the day.
- Can be seen either hyper-alert or hypo alert at different times in the day.
- May have difficulty transitioning from one activity to the other.
- Many children are seen to have digestion difficulties too.
- Seen to have difficulty in impulse control and aggression.
- Difficulty in expressing emotions and in communication.
With difficulty in sleeping linked with so many challenges, it is absolutely necessary to ensure that your child gets enough and also an undisturbed sleep. There are many ways that you can help your child for the same. One such thing that you can do is establish a consistent night time routine for your child and make sure you and the child follow it every single day.
Now, what is a night time routine? We have all heard of what morning routines are and how it plays an important role to start your day. Similarly, a nighttime routine plays a big role in attuning yourself with nature and preparing yourself to get ready for bed and sleep deeply.
A Consistent night time routine will prepare your body and brain to start relaxing and give them a cue that it is time to sleep and prepares the brain to start secreting the hormone Melatonin, which is a sleep hormone. If the routine is established every day, it also helps the child sleep faster as the body works according to the daily biological clock. It also reduces the struggle between a parent and child relationship and better cooperation and compliance is seen from the child in everyday routine.
How can we incorporate a nighttime routine for our child?
Here is a list of things you can do-
- No screen time before sleep- have all the gadgets and screens off for one to one and a half hours before sleep time, as the blue light of the screen blocks your brain to produce melatonin.
- Warm water bath- having a warm water bath helps in calming down and also helps the brain start preparing for sleep. After the bath, you can give a deep rub to the body, with a Turkish towel while wiping.
- Use dim lights instead of white LED lights- using dim lights will help in reducing the visual clutter and is also soothing to the eyes. It will prepare eyes to start resting and eventually help in getting faster sleep.
- Minimize auditory distractions- reduce all the auditory distractions like loud music. Instead, play soft instrumental music in the background and speak with your child in a low volume. This will help in calming the whole body.
- Sleep in a dark and cool room- Researches have shown that sleeping in a dark and a cool (not cold) room helps us relax faster and sleep deeper. So, close the curtains, switch off the lights and put your child to sleep.
- Narrate bedtime stories- bedtime stories are magic to your child’s imagination and are the best way to put your child to a night of deep sleep. Make this a part of your daily routine and see magical changes.
Use thick blankets for tactile sensitive children- if your child has tactile sensitivities, he or she may not like to take a light blanket over. Use a thick and slightly heavy blanket for them as it will give a little added deep pressure throughout the night.
- Practice mindfulness activities- activities for mindfulness like deep breathing, painting, journaling, etc. also helps in calming our brain and body which will in turn help in getting better sleep.
- Use a transition object- bringing your child’s favourite toy to bed with him will help in easy transitioning to sleep. If it helps your child sleep faster and deep, then definitely use it. For example, let your child carry one or two of their favourite Peppa pig/doll/teddy/etc. to bed and put it to sleep next to them. They can narrate a story to them or sing a song together and go to sleep.
Above are a few night time routines you can use with your child. You do not need to pick every activity mentioned above. Choose the ones that will help you and make sure to stick to those few every single day. You will not see changes within one or two days. Give it consistent time and practice and in a few days, you will definitely see results. We would love to hear from you, how it goes.
- Benefits of a bedtime routine in young children: Sleep, development, and beyond
- Sleep deprivation impairs the accurate recognition of human emotions
- Sleep Regulation, Physiology and Development, Sleep Duration and Patterns, and Sleep Hygiene in Infants, Toddlers, and Preschool-Age Children https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S1538544216301225?via%3Dihub