Why your family needs a healthy sleep schedule — and how to create one

Many of us can remember having a strict bedtime checklist when we were little. Brush your teeth, read a bedtime story and lights off at 8pm.

As we compete more and more with distracting screens and busy schedules, the idea of having such a tight routine can feel like an impossible feat most nights!

Research has proven the incredible positive impact that a simple, consistent routine before sleep has on children’s health and wellbeing - both short and long-term. Bad habits, like looking at phones or eating sugary snacks before going to bed, can make it harder to fall and stay asleep throughout the night.1

A bad night’s sleep can show itself during the day as behavioural problems like restlessness and moodiness. It can also falsely increase your kids’ appetite and affect their ability to concentrate and pay attention at school.1

Many people may not know that the optimal amount of sleep is about 10 to 13 hours for 3-5 year olds, nine to 11 hours for 6-13 year old’s, and eight to 10 hours for teens.1

Research from YouGovGalaxy found that more than two-thirds of parents (68%) say their child’s school performance is affected when they don’t have enough sleep.

In fact, the team that the University of Notre Dame found that almost half (43%) of all children regularly use screen-based devices at bedtime, with one in four (26%) reporting sleep problems as a result.1

The good news is that working out a healthy sleep schedule doesn’t have to interfere with our complex lives. Here are some tips to getting that routine nailed-down so your little ones (and you!) can live their big lives with as much energy and vitality as possible.

Make bedtime fun

We know kids will try anything to avoid having to go to sleep! So how can we make bedtime something they actually look forward to?

Why not try incorporating an enjoyable yet relaxing activity into their night-time routine?

It could be getting them to choose a bedtime story or writing together in a journal about what they did that day and what they’re looking forward to tomorrow.

For older kids and teens who have outgrown bedtime stories, suggest writing in a diary before bed to help alleviate any anxiety that could be keeping them awake.

Create restful bedrooms

Do you ever notice how when your space is cluttered, your mind feels a bit cluttered too?

A great way to help your child mentally connect their sleeping environment with ‘restfulness’ is by making bedrooms clean, electronic-free zones.

That means removing devices like phones, televisions, tablets and computers from the room (or setting a curfew on their use) and remove as much clutter as possible, especially on and around the bed.

If they play with toys during the day, pack these away at night so there is a clear difference between using their room for play and for sleep.

It also helps to keep the room dark and at a cool, comfortable temperature - 18°C to 22°C is optimal for kids at night.1

Switch off stimulants

Getting kids to switch their screens off can be a real challenge – but it can also be hard for us as adults too!
Make a habit by switching off as a whole family before getting ready for bed.  

That could be turning off the TV and laptops and spending thirty minutes together on a mellow activity like creating a jigsaw puzzle or doing a crossword.

Avoiding caffeinated and sugary drinks and snacks in the hours leading up to the evening will also help your kids wind down before bed.

For older kids and teens, doing some exercise or sports in the afternoon to shake off any excess energy can also help them feel ready to sleep.

Learn all about how you can make sure your child has a sound nights’ sleep by downloading the Little People Big Lives report.

 
 

References

  1. Bennett, C et al. 2018. Little People, Big Lives: Foundations for healthy Australian children in the 21st century. University of Notre Dame Sydney. Available online: [link]
  2. YouGovGalaxy. Data on file. 2018.

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