Even though we home school & do not have a ‘back to school’ as such, we do enjoy the lazy days of summer and still need to get back into learning mode & reset our body clocks. Each of our kiddos is very different when it comes to sleep. Gabe likes to take himself off to bed, curl up with ‘Peso the Penguin’ and fall asleep, in bed, by himself. Evey would gnaw of her arm if she thought it would get her an extra two minuets before bedtime and, of course, there are the teenagers who present a whole different set of challenges.
So how do you get your kids (and yourself for that matter) into healthy sleep habits?
Have the same bedtime and get-up time every day – including the weekends. The body responds well to routine & consistency. Going to bed at the same time every night will train your body to expect to sleep at a particular time & getting up at the same time every morning does the same thing. When you stay up later & sleep later at weekends, you disrupt your body rhythms, and some studies suggest that because of this disruption to routine, catching up on sleep at the weekend may be worse for your general sleep quality .
Make Changes Gradually
If your little monkeys are swinging from the light fittings at 11 pm and you’d like them in the land of nod by 8 pm don’t try to get them tucked up in bed three hours earlier than usual – you’ll all be stressed out, and sleeping will become a big issue. Instead, change bedtime by 15 mins every three days. This way it won’t be a huge shock to anyone’s system, and you are all more likely to be successful.
Have A Get Ready For Bed Routine
This can be whatever works for your family, as long as it is quiet, relaxing and happens at the same time every night. Bath, book then bed is a traditional routine but in our house it’s “electronics away, quiet play, ready for bed, cuddles & a chat, bed”. Just do what works for you.
Establish A Good Sleep Environment
Discourage kids laying in bed playing during the day – beds should be equated with sleep not play. Wherever possible always have a dark bedroom. If your little sleeper needs some light use a nightlight that has a green bulb and a timer. Also, make sure it’s not too hot & not too cold. The average optimum temperature for a bedroom is 18.5C (65F), and you might want to use this as a starting point & move the temp up or down a little to see what works best in your house.
If possible don’t have any electronics in the bedroom-none at all. If this is not possible ensure the family turn off & put away those devices at least an hour before bedtime. Studies have shown that even having a cell-phone or tablet in the room with you can disrupt sleep. Find a place everyone can set their devices to charge overnight, outside of the bedrooms.
Eat Early & limit Caffeine & Physical Activity
Don’t eat closer than 2 hours before bedtime and limit all food & drinks with caffeine after noon. Eating raises your core body temperature and makes it more difficult for your body to sleep. Also, limit excess physical activity before bed. It’s unreasonable to expect your kids to switch for an exciting physical activity with friends to a sleeping mode in the space of a half hour.
Make ‘Em Tired
Play energetic, physical games in the afternoon to help tire your little terrors out but don’t do this in the morning or you’ll just have tired cranky kids all afternoon & evening. Similarly don’t let your teens nap during the day – it will ruin their sleep rhythm.
Show Them How It’s Done
Finally, as in all things, teach your kids the way by establishing healthy sleep patterns yourself. It’s difficult to expect your children to maintain a healthy sleep environment & routine if they get up for a drink at 1 am and find you sitting up in bed, laptop open, eating chocolate and chatting on Facebook!