You’ve enrolled your little one in one of the best schools, signed them up for basketball, and even incorporated reading sessions into their bedtime routine. That’s all fine and dandy. There’s just one thing missing from that equation: ensuring they get enough quality sleep.
Recent studies have shown that adequate sleep is crucial to children’s development. In particular, kids who don’t get sufficient sleep are more likely to experience mental health problems - not to mention diminished cognitive ability.
This article provides tips for establishing a healthy bedtime routine. This way, you can get your child on the right track when it comes to sleep. You will also learn more about the role of sleep in a child’s development.
What Is the Importance of Sleep for Child Development?
Physical development is a sophisticated process involving numerous hormones working in tandem to initiate different biological functions.
One particular hormone that plays a gigantic role is the human growth hormone (HGH). Released by the pituitary gland, it not only stimulates growth but also influences how your body utilizes the food you eat.
What’s even more intriguing is the timing of this hormone’s production. HGH production occurs when one engages in vigorous activities and when they sleep.
However, its production reaches its peak during stage III of sleep (or deep sleep) - up to 75% of the hormone is produced.
In summary, ensuring your baby gets enough sleep promotes their physical development. The question is, just how much sleep do kids need? The chart below provides a detailed answer to this question:
Tips for Establishing a Bedtime Routine
Getting your child to sleep for the recommended duration is no mean feat. This is why I recommend creating a bedtime routine. This way, your child knows when they should retire to bed and what they can do to promote healthy sleep. Here are a handful of helpful suggestions to help you with;
Establish a Specific Bedtime
If you haven’t set one already, then this should be your starting point. Decide the specific sleep time and adhere to it every night. And, yes, that includes the weekends.
This makes it easier to figure out when to kickstart the bedtime routine. For instance, if your child is scheduled to sleep at 8 p.m., their bedtime routine should start between 30 minutes and 1 hour before.
Keep It Short and Sweet
Are you struggling to get your child to sleep even with a routine? If you are, there’s a high probability that you’re not doing it right.
A bedtime routine should be short and sweet for two reasons. One, it allows your child to sleep early enough so they can wake up early. Two, it helps your child relax, so they’re not retiring to bed overly fatigued.
On that note, your child’s bedtime routine should consist of just 3 to 4 activities. At the same time, these activities should be relaxing, not stimulating. For example, the routine can comprise bathing, brushing their teeth, and reading/ singing lullabies.
Create a Sleep-Friendly Environment
If you want your child to fall asleep naturally, ensure you set the right mood. Pay attention to the following factors:
Try to maintain a cool temperature ranging between 68 and 72°F. A cooler environment leads to a decrease in body temperature. This, in turn, decelerates your child’s metabolism and decreases their alertness; hence, encouraging them to fall asleep.
Did you know that the type of light in your kid’s bedroom affects their ability to sleep? That’s right. Blue light - the kind produced by electronic devices - suppresses the body’s melatonin production. Melatonin is a hormone that regulates your sleep and wake cycle.
Based on this, advise your child to turn off electronic devices at least an hour before bedtime. Similarly, invest in a dim, warm-colored lighting fixture for your kid’s bedroom.
Another factor to pay attention to is the noise level. Keep the bedroom and the surrounding area as quiet as possible. This will help your little one to have a more restful sleep.
Work as a Team
Are you planning to introduce a bedtime routine to your toddler? If you are, you’ll want to get your partner or spouse on board. Sit down with them and come up with the rules together. This way, they can do it even when you’re not around.
Once you’ve established the routine, explain it to your kid(s); that is, if they’re old enough to understand.
For toddlers, consider using a chart that illustrates actions like brushing teeth and putting away toys. And even then, be patient with your child. They probably won’t do everything right the first night. So keep reminding them until they make it a habit.
Offer Nutritious Bedtime Snacks
You never want your child to sleep on a hungry stomach. If they do, they’ll struggle to fall asleep. And even if they manage to sleep, they’ll likely wake up too early, which can mess up the day’s schedule.
So if they’re hungry before bedtime, offer them a light but nutrient-packed snack. Think of a warm glass of milk, whole-grain toast with some peanut butter, or a small bowl of oatmeal.
That said, don’t overfeed, either. A rumbling stomach will keep them awake, but so will an overfilled tummy.
Sleep plays a significant role in your child’s development. It affects the secretion of human growth hormone, which stimulates growth.
Creating a bedtime routine goes a long way in ensuring that your child gets sufficient sleep. To establish a healthy routine, consider involving your partner or spouse. Similarly, keep the routine short, set a specific sleep and wake-up time, and provide a sleep-friendly environment.