Family Lockdown Sleep Survival Guide
Even during normal times, helping children to get to sleep at night and wake up at a reasonable time in the morning can be a challenge. Around two thirds of children don’t get enough sleep, and during these difficult times, that number could be more.
We are all trying hard to do the best we can for our families; to keep healthy, occupied and in good spirits. But having children – whether toddlers or teenagers – who don’t sleep well is not only bad for them, but it takes its toll on the whole family.
Everyone in the family benefits when children sleep well – especially the children themselves. Here are some facts:
Sleep strengthens their immune systems, and we all know how important that is right now.
It improves their concentration – so if you’re trying to get them to focus on anything more demanding than watching cartoons, it will be easier if they’re well slept.
The most intense period of growth hormone release is during sleep – Having a good diet is only part of what makes them tall and strong.
Children need some quiet time and their own space at the end of a busy day; just as you do. Don’t feel guilty about needing some adult time – especially at the moment, when many of us are living on top of each other.
They also need the structure of a normal day, with a reasonable getting up time – otherwise, their internal body clocks stop functioning properly.
They also need parental boundaries, in order for them to feel safe. During these worrying times, they need to know that you are in charge and able to look after them.
If you’re worried about the sleepless nights in your family, here are some tips:
Andrea’s plan for a good night’s sleep
- From the youngest members of the family, to the eldest; do not underestimate the importance of a simple, consistent bed time routine. The time of it can vary according to age, but a familiar series of steps leading up to sleep, which includes a warm bath or shower immediately before getting into bed, will help them to sleep well.
- Turn all screens off at least half an hour before bed and do not have TVs computers etc in the bedrooms. Ask them to leave their phones outside the bed room and if they can’t, then at least switch them to night mode/silent.
- Be sensitive to the possible stresses that your child is under. They may be really missing their friends, worried about themselves or people they love becoming ill, concerned about falling behind with school work or losing ground with any sport or other activity they’ve been working on. Most of us right now are having more time than usual with our children, so do make time to talk and really listen – even though you’re possibly anxious and probably busy yourself.
- With older children who would have been doing exams and are still preparing for the next step in their education; discourage them from doing homework very close to bed time. It is best done in the earlier part of the day. Aim to have a quiet time together before bed, chatting, reading for pleasure or playing cards etc.
- Avoid fizzy drinks, energy drinks, chocolate or other foods containing stimulants – especially just before bed.
- One of the best ways to improve a child’s sleep at night time, which involves minimal arguing and doesn’t cost a penny, is to expose them to daylight – especially in the morning. The contrast of lightness in the day and darkness at night helps them to produce healthy levels of melatonin; the hormone responsible for putting them to sleep at night and keeping them asleep. Not only this, but daylight exposure can also improve a young person’s mood, as it increases the release of the “feel good” hormone, serotonin. So try to use the morning for their allocated outdoor exercise time. If this isn’t possible, then at least encourage breakfast and morning activities in the sunniest room in the home.
- Remember, that if everything feels like it’s going to pot, you are not on your own – thousands of families are going through this too. Children are incredibly resilient and they do bounce back from a period of sleep disruption – but if you can support them to not lose sleep, its better for everyone.