Oh, glorious sleep. Adults love it. Kids? Well, ask any parent. Achieving a good night’s sleep for their children is easier said than done.
But getting your children to sleep is more than just a sanity-saver, it’s crucial when raising active kids. Physical activity, sedentary behaviour, and sleep are closely connected. Earlier this year, the ParticipACTION Report Card on Physical Activity for Children and Youth showed that Canadian kids are getting less sleep, and when they do sleep, it’s of poor quality. In fact, many elementary-aged children and high school teens are sleep-deprived, which has grave effects on physical activity.
For Alanna McGinn, founder and senior sleep consultant of Good Night Sleep Site, creating a positive relationship between sleep and kids is essential. For over eight years, the Burlington, Ont., mom and her team of sleep consultants have been helping families across North America learn to sleep better.
She shares these tips with Active for Life on how to encourage healthy sleep habits for the whole family.
1. Bring back bedtime
Bedtime is a great time for everybody to slow down and reconnect. Kids need that. Choose an age-appropriate bedtime. And an early bedtime is key. When kids are well-rested, they will sleep better, fall asleep easier, and stay asleep longer in the morning.
2. Create a routine
And stick to it. Work with a 30-minute routine — no more than that — and make sure it’s not cutting into their actual bedtime. Go into their room and bring down stimulation. You can do whatever activities they want to do, but keep it consistent and a part of your everyday routine. Once things are established, the kids aren’t going to fight you because they are expecting it.
3. Provide a space that is dark, quiet, and cool
Create an environment that is conducive to sleep. For adults, we always say that your bedroom is not your office, not your gym, or entertainment centre. It’s the same thing for kids; create a room that is meant for sleep. During summer months, use blackout blinds. Try a white-noise machine to help drown out external sounds like traffic and birds chirping, especially for those early mornings when sleep is lighter.
4. Communicate the importance of sleep
Don’t just tell kids that they have to go to bed — explain why they have to go to bed. Ask questions like: What is sleep? What does sleep do for you and your body? How does it make you feel? How do you feel when you had a good night’s sleep? How do you feel when you haven’t had a good night’s sleep? How do Mom and Dad feel when they haven’t?
5. Incorporate physical activity
Studies have shown that children who are active during the day fall asleep faster. And those who fall asleep faster tend to sleep better and stay asleep longer at night. [Editor’s note: for those looking for ways to get kids more active, a good place to start is with our activities and activities for babies and toddlers. Peruse the rest of this site for more tips, activities, and inspiration.]
6. Get up and smell the fresh air
Wake time in the morning is often taken for granted, but what we don’t realize is that it sets the tone for the rest of the day. Our goal upon waking is to build up enough drive throughout the day to fall asleep easier at night. Our natural sleep rhythm is largely programmed by environmental factors so getting outside in the fresh air and sunlight is a great way to synch our 24-hour clock.
Is lack of sleep a problem in your house? Please let us know if you try any of these tips and how they work for your family. Or, if you have any other go-to sleep strategies, please share them in the comments below or on our Facebook page.