How to develop a healthy sleep routine for your child

By Michelle Lorber Time of article published Jan 7, 2021

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Do yourself a favour and get your children back into a routine before school starts again. It’s important to ensure your child has enough sleep. Children who aren’t well rested will find it hard to concentrate and learn to the best of their ability.

Set a definite bedtime. If you stick to this every night, it becomes a routine. Settling down can also become a routine: having a bath or shower, brushing of teeth, a bedtime story and being tucked in and being kissed goodnight, or having a quiet talk about the day.

Have a switch-off time for electronic devices. Turn off the TV. Start playing relaxing music and reducing the amount of light. Move electronic devices such as iPods and mobile phones out of the room.

Data suggests notifications either wake you up or disrupt your sleep. Blue light emitted by any screen interferes with your body's melatonin production, which responds to light. Naturally, melatonin levels increase as the sun sets and stay at an increased state during the night. This keeps the body’s natural rhythm going.

Encourage your children to be active during the day. Sitting to watch movies, play computer games or browse the internet reduces physical activities which can also lead to an increase in weight gain. But remember to keep activity prior to three hours before bed.

Keep your home as quiet as possible around bedtime. The hour beforehand should be calm and soothing. Talk and move more slowly. Discourage your children from running around before their bedtime. Sleep is easier when everything has slowed down. Ensure the room is dark or only dimly lit (children have different preferences).

Younger children need 10 to 12 hours a night, and teenagers between eight and 10 hours a night.

Prepare your child by saying: “Do you want to go to bed now, or in 10 minutes?”

Try to ensure your child doesn’t eat or drink something containing caffeine too close to bedtime. It’s good to give the body time to digest before going to sleep, though without going to bed hungry.

Eating small small amounts of complex carbohydrates, vegetables or protein before bed should satisfy your appetite and allow you to get to sleep more quickly. Foods such as fruits, nuts, oatmeal and wholewheat bread will regulate blood sugar levels. This is something you want to achieve, as high blood sugar levels can interfere with sleep.

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