Sleep experts will agree that sleeping has a plethora of amazing benefits for kids. In fact, quality sleep doesn’t just provide benefits. It’s a necessity for a child’s development, and you can give your kids an amazing gift enough night if you improve your kids’ sleep. In his book, Genetic Studies of Genius, Terman found that the more a child sleeps, the more intellectually gifted that he or she is.
And in his book, Why We Sleep, Dr. Matthew Walker states that more than 50% of all children diagnosed with ADHD actually have a sleep disorder. With simple changes to improve sleep quality, these ADHD-like symptoms can be cured.
According to the CDC, kids should get the following amount of sleep pre day.
- Infants: 14 to 17 hours
- Preschool: 10 to 13 hours
- School age: 9 – 12 hours
- Teenagers: 8-10 hours
Did you know that according to the National Sleep Foundation, less than 25% of kids aged eleven to eighteen don’t get enough sleep each night? And in the meanwhile, over 70% of parents think that their kids are getting adequate sleep. What’s the disconnect? Much of it is the fact that as a society, we don’t prioritize sleep enough. But remember, along with nutrition, there’s no better gift that we can give our children than quality sleep.
Try these 8 simple tips to improve your kids’ sleep:
1. Morning Sun
Exposing your kids to morning sunlight is one of the best ways to improve sleep quality. The sooner that you do this after waking up, the better.
Natural sunlight stops the production of melatonin which is also known as the sleepy hormone. This helps to regulate your circadian rhythm which also helps your body to fall asleep at night too.
Bright sunny day? Great! Aim for 15 mins to achieve this amazing benefit, but even 5 minutes will help. Is it a little more overcast? No worries, you may just need a little extra time outside. Aim for 30 minutes, but even 10-15 minutes will benefit. This may seem impossible on school days, especially when the days get shorter, and it’s still fairly dark in the morning. But do your best. It’ll be harder at first while you adjust to this new routine, but going to sleep earlier at night will help you build in this extra time.
I send my kids outside for a bit once they’re ready for school and I’m fixing breakfast. Sometimes I plan a bit of extra time to linger outside at drop off at school. The best: encourage your school to add some outdoor time early in the school day!
2. Consistent Bedtime Routine
There’s no better benefit to quality sleep than a consistent bedtime routine. We function best when we go to sleep and wake up at the same time each day, which helps you to establish a good circadian rhythm. In fact, research shows that children who follow bedtime routines are more likely to go to sleep earlier, take less time falling asleep, sleep longer, and wake up less during the night. In our family, we pick a consistent bedtime and work backwards to build a routine and the proper time to allow for this routine. We follow this routine religiously. Our bedtime routine for our 5 and 7 year olds is:
3. Early Dinner
An early dinner may be impossible for some families, but if you can make it work, I strongly encourage it! An early dinner allows our food to digest for a few hours before bedtime. If your body isn’t working to digest food, then it can work to clean out our brains and our bodies which is work that our bodies only do while we’re sleeping.
4. Pick Out the Right Color for a Nightlight and Avoid All Screens
Research shows that blue and white light can suppress the production of melatonin. That’s why we limit all screens for 2+ hours before bed. Like to watch TV at night? Try to avoid it when you can.
And if your kiddo needs a night light, a standard white light may not be the best. Instead look for colors like yellow, orange, or red. These won’t interfere with melatonin production.
5. A Warm Bath
Not only is a warm bath wonderful, the science even tells us that it helps our sleep too! How? A nice warm bath helps to lower our body’s core temperature. A drop in temperature helps signal to the body that it’s time for bed. Studies even show that after a warm bath, we tend to fall asleep faster.
We try to prioritize a warm bath as many nights as possible. The days that we add epsom salt and lavender, the kids tend to fall asleep even quicker. Plus, who doesn’t love the smell of lavender!?
6. Prioritize Quality Foods
Research consistently shows the connection between a quality diet and quality sleep. Excess sugar can cause your body to wake up at night more frequently. Additionally, young kids that have a higher consumption of soft drinks, processed snacks, and fast foods are more likely to have shorter and disrupted sleep. Conversely higher veggie consumption is associated with less disrupted sleep. Sleep also affects your diet as well. Studies show how a good night’s sleep results in better food choices the next day. Many studies have shown how lack of sleep results in a desire for sugary, ultra-processed foods the next day. In short, eat better for better sleep. Sleep better for better eating habits.
7. Clean Room
In one of my favorite books: Simplicity Parenting, Kim John Payne talks about the benefits of a clean room, especially as it relates to sleep. A clean room means cleaner minds which leads to more peaceful sleep. We build in time each night to pick up our rooms before bed.
We love ending our day with some gratitude. Our children’s busy minds can often wander before sleep. Set them up with happy thoughts by practicing gratitude. Think of 3 things you are grateful for before you go to bed. Send your child off to sleep with those thoughts so they can drift off peacefully without worry.
We hope that these tips help your kiddos and YOU have a better night’s rest. Every night, we have an opportunity to give our kids an amazing gift of quality sleep. Teach your kids about these tips and help them make the connections between each of these tips and the benefits they’ll get from a quality night of sleep. We wrote our children’s book, My SuperHero Sleep, because kids have an amazing ability to make these connections if we help them.