School is out and for many that means a more relaxed sleep schedule. However, just because it’s summer doesn’t mean that you should let your kids stay up as late as they want. Recent research has found that consistent bedtimes result in better health for most people. And if you are like me, putting my kids to bed later does not result in a later wake-up time. Even reducing sleep by 1 hour per night can affect your child’s cognition and ability to pay attention. Sleep is a vital part of your child’s healthy growth and development. It’s even been shown to improve children’s peer acceptance, social skills and engagement, and emotional intuition.
The following 5 steps will help make going to bed easier for you and your child, and it will also help make the transition back to school smoother. Remember, even though it’s summer, it’s still important to get a good night’s sleep!
1. Establish bedtime rituals. Do you have a bedtime routine? If not, establish one. For example, if your aim is to get your kids in bed by 8 pm, start the bedtime routine at 7 pm. In our household, they have a bath or shower, we read together for about 20 minutes, then we talk about our day, and then lights out! Every family’s sleep routine will look different, but if you are consistent, your kids will know what to expect.
2. Eat for better sleep. What your children eat throughout the day can have a major impact on their nighttime sleep. Meals with good protein and healthy fats help to balance blood sugar, which helps balance the stress hormone cortisol. If stress hormones spike in the night, it’s hard for kids to sleep. To keep blood sugar and cortisol in balance during the sleeping hours, a diet of whole foods with plenty of fresh fruits, green leafy vegetables, and lean proteins such as fish, poultry, beans and legumes, is optimal. Healthy fats from nuts, seeds, olive oil, avocados and fish are also an important part of a sleep-friendly diet (or any diet). Most importantly, limit sugar and avoid caffeine, as both are very stimulating for the nervous system.
3. Manage your kid’s stress. Being a child can be stressful, and stress and anxiety can have a lasting effect and impact a child’s ability to fall asleep. Exercise is a great way to help manage stress. Children should get at least an hour of vigorous activity per day. Limiting screen time can also reduce stress.
4. Tea, please. Teas can be a mild way to help a child calm down at day’s end. And it can also be part of your bedtime routine. Teas that contain camomile, lavender, lemon balm or passionflower are good to try.
5. Enough magnesium? Magnesium can help for those stubborn sleep problems. Be sure to check with your healthcare practitioner for the correct dosage. Magnesium is also in Epsom salts, which you can try mixing into a bath at bedtime.
Photo from here, with thanks.