Sleep is as important as nutrition for the overall development of a child. However, not all children get the required amount of sleep. The most common culprit for children not getting adequate sleep is the lack of proper bedtime routine. However, there are several other factors as well such as excessive use of electronic devices, late-working parents, and improper diet.
Inadequate sleep can affect children in multiple ways. It affects their emotional and physical well-being, attention span, appetite, metabolism and so on.
It is the duty of parents to ensure that their little ones are not affected by the ill-effects of inadequate sleep. Let’s look at some ways to do this.
1. Understand if your child is getting adequate sleep: To understand whether your child is getting the adequate amount of sleep, ask yourself these questions: Does he wake up easily in the morning at the expected time? Does he stay awake during the day without taking a nap? Does he stay awake during sedentary activities like watching TV? Does he appear well rested during the day? If your answer to all these questions is a ‘Yes’, then your child is getting a sufficient amount of sleep. But if your answer is ‘No’, then you need to take steps to allow your child to get an adequate amount of sleep.
2. Decide on the right bedtime for your child: On an average, a preschooler needs 11 to 13 hours of sleep every day. Mark the time your child wakes up in the morning and count back 11 hours to figure out the time she should go to bed.
3. Adjust your child’s biological clock: Once you have figured out the right time to put him to bed, make sure that you put him to sleep at the same time every day. At the same time, ensure that he wakes up at a fixed time every day. If your child tries to roll back his usual bedtime, set limits on the time he can stay awake.
4. Create a cosy bedroom environment: The atmosphere in your child’s bedroom plays a very important role in instilling a healthy sleep–wake cycle. Ensure that the bedroom is dark, cool and quiet. Most important of all, do not keep the TV in your child’s bedroom.
5. Limit gadget time and avoid exposure to violent content: The increasing use of technology has affected children a lot. In the guise of educational toys, more and more gadgets are being introduced to children. These gadgets also double up as toys and modes of entertainment Exposure to the blue screen of gadgets and watching violent content for entertainment disrupts the sleep patterns of children.
6. Provide the right nutrition: Food provides energy and promotes development; but, the wrong diet can affect sleeping patterns. Food high in sugar and caffeine can keep children awake for a long time. So, ensure that you don’t offer your child food that contains caffeine or high amounts of sugar.
7. Encourage physical activity: Nowadays, most children do not get enough physical activity, as they spend most of their time glued to gadgets or playing sedentary games after a long day in school. Encourage your child to go out and play with other children, as increased physical activity has been linked to good sleep. Also, playing in the natural light helps the body produce melatonin, which has a positive effect on the sleep–wake cycle.
8. Help your child relax: Children don’t know how to lie still, put their thoughts to rest and fall asleep. Telling them a story or reading from a book helps them lie still to listen and relaxes their minds. This makes them feel sleepy and fall asleep. Children may also find it difficult to sleep if they are scared or anxious. Addressing their concerns will make them feel safe and protected, which, in turn, will allow them to fall asleep.
Instilling good sleep habits and, thus, helping your child sleep well will lay the foundation for a healthy life ahead. But, even after following the above tips, if you are unable to set right your child’s sleeping pattern, take the help of a paediatrician.