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A guest blog by Erica Hargaden, Paediatric Sleep Consultant and
Founder of Babogue.
Sleep is an incredibly important body function that helps us rejuvenate and recharge. It helps to keep us happy, healthy and functioning properly in our day to day lives. Whether your little ones are infants or of school going age, getting a good night's sleep can be difficult as a family. Luckily there are a number of things that you can try which will help you and your children to sleep well, wake up feeling refreshed and in a position to tackle the day ahead! Here are our top 5 important sleep tips for the whole family.
Creating the same bed time for each day can truly help with your sleep quality. Once your family members are used to going to bed at a similar time each day things will run a little smoother and more efficiently. Setting a bedtime will not only help your children get used to a sleep schedule but it will mean that it will help to anchor your wake sleep cycles. These measures will which will help regulate your family’s sleep pattern. As a guide, babies and toddlers should get at least 10-12 hours of sleep per night, with 2-3 hours of naps in the day (depending on their age), children of school age should get a minimum of 9 to 11 hours and adults 7 to 8 hours of sleep each night.
Once you have set a bedtime for you and your children, it is a great idea to create a routine for the evenings to help calm your little ones down. Try incorporating bath time into your little one’s evening routines to help soothe them just in time for bed. Turning the lights down and keeping volume levels low will indicate that it is time to settle and prepare for sleep. A bedtime story can be a great activity for your kids to look forward to with you prior to bedtime. Avoid letting the little ones watch TV or use tablets in the hour before bed as the blue light from these devices can disrupt them from getting a good night's sleep.
For your own bedtime routine, put away electronics and try reading a book or meditate to help you get to sleep. A warm bath or shower an hour before bed can work wonders for you as parents if you struggle to sleep in the evenings. You can also try other calming steps such as journaling before bed or drinking a herbal tea. I will often advise clients to take magnesium in the hour prior to bedtime to help regulate their sleep with its natural calming properties.
One of the best things to do to help improve your family’s quality and quantity of sleep is to make the sleep environment supportive. There are a few different things that you can do to create the perfect ambience for your home at night.
First of all, if it is possible, turn all of the lights down in your home in the evenings and make sure yours and your children’s bedroom lights are turned off when it is time to sleep. This will support the production of melatonin, the sleepy hormone, as it requires darkness for it to help our bodies fall asleep and maintain our sleep. If your children are scared of the dark then you can try night lights so that their bedrooms or nurseries are still kept as dark as possible. It is recommended that these nightlights are orange, amber or red in their light rather than blue or white as the latter can interfere with sleep phases. You should also keep noise to a minimum, even when you are speaking. White noise can be a great solution if you are concerned about noise levels in your home interfering with your child's ability to sleep. There are a variety of lullabies and songs created to help infants and toddlers to sleep, so you could try these as a method to help them settle into their bedtime routine. Finally, make sure your children’s rooms are a suitable temperature; ideally you want the rooms cool as our bodies prefer cooler temperatures for sleep than being too warm.
You will also want to keep your own bedroom cool and dark but ensure that you have cosy and warm bed covers and blankets to keep your body at the perfect temperature while you sleep. Diffusing sleep supportive essential oils in your bedroom are also helpful at night; oils such as lavender, bergamot, cedarwood and clary sage are all effective at settling your mind and body for sleep. If you don’t like having complete silence in bed there are a variety of soundtracks that can help to promote sleep. Getting the right ambience in your bedroom at night is vital to help you get a good rest.
Putting electronic devices with screens away during the evenings can be extremely difficult if you and your family are used to watching TV, or using tablets and phones, but these devices can interfere with sleep quality a huge amount! Light from phones and tablets can decrease your melatonin levels, which are crucial hormones for sufficient sleep. Try cutting down on screen time until you can go completely without, and don’t let your little ones look at a screen for at least 1 hours before bed time! Instead of using electronics in the evening, why not try reading a book or listening to relaxing music in bed? If you are watching TV in the evenings, avoid watching anything that may contribute to a dose of the scary’s for your child. Avoiding nightmares is important!
The key to feeling sleepy in the evenings and ready for a rejuvenating night of sleep is to stay as active as possible during the day. Try to exercise daily, even if it is just getting out for a walk for fresh air. Your little ones should be active during the day so that they tire out for the evenings and are ready for their bedtime routines. Fresh air, exercise and a healthy diet during the day are key to sleeping well.
Another thing you can in the day do to help regulate your sleep pattern is to open all of the curtains and blinds as soon as you wake up in the mornings to let as much light in as possible. This will alert your body that it is day time and help you to feel more tired when it gets dark. Do the same thing for your children so that they are surrounded by natural light once they have woken.
Some of these steps are simple changes you can make straight away and some may take getting used to, but will all count towards getting you and your family the best night of sleep possible. Visit Babogue for more.