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Top 10 Sleep Tips for Your Family

By Emily Savage

By BCB Resident Expert, Janeen Hayward of Swellbeing

At Swellbeing we look at sleep as a family wellness issue. If your child isn’t sleeping well, chances are you’re not either. In fact, even once a child is sleeping well, it can be hard for parents to undo their own unhealthy sleep habits and patterns. Yet, the research shows time and again just how important quality sleep is to our health and wellbeing.

For example, we know that insufficient sleep increases the risk for mood disorders such as anxiety and depression as well as increasing the likelihood of obesity. Everything from learning to memory to heart health is impacted by sleep quantity and quality. Moreover, most parents agree that they are less patient, more irritable and generally more lethargic when they don’t get the sleep they need.

This all makes biological sense. One of the main functions of sleep is to restore and rejuvenate our bodies physically and mentally. In fact, the less sleep we get, the more our bodies produce the stress hormone cortisol, which puts our bodies in a state of stress which makes it harder to fall asleep and stay asleep. This is the very cycle that we often strategize with parents to break so children can get the sleep their growing bodies and brains need to thrive.

I propose that as the flowers begin to bloom and everything outdoors springs to life that sleep becomes a top priority for the entire family. In case your wondering how much sleep our bodies need, an average adult needs roughly 7-9 hours of sleep per night (women generally need more), while most babies need 13-15 hours and toddlers and preschoolers need roughly 12-14 hours.

Here is a list of tips to foster healthy sleep habits in children and adults alike:

  1. Avoid television, computers, and phones – anything with an LCD screen – before bed. LCD screens have been proven to suppress the production of melatonin (the hormone that makes us drowsy).
  2. Do a soothing, predictable routine before bed. It is especially helpful if this includes a warm bath as it helps our bodies fall asleep.
  3. Establish an early bedtime and be consistent. Contrary to logic, early bedtimes yield later wake up times in the morning.
  4. Make sure you know how much sleep you and your children need and prioritize this in your schedule. Adults need an average of 7-9 hours per day (women often need more than men). Infants need roughly 13-15 hours/day, while toddlers and preschoolers generally need 12-14 hours.
  5. Use blackout shades to minimize the disruption to sleep in the early morning when the sun rises. This is going to be especially important when we transition to Daylight Savings Time next month.
  6. Give young children a lovey to snuggle with. The key is that it needs to smell like mom or dad.  Stick it in your shirt or sleep with it for a few nights before introducing it into your child’s sleep routine.
  7. Close bedroom doors. An open door is an invitation for young children to get up and leave their rooms.  Toddlers and preschoolers, especially, struggle with FOMO and an open door will invariably lead a curious child to leave the bed.
  8. Spend quality time connecting on an emotional and physical level with your child before bed. One-on-one time with a loving grown up helps to ease the inevitable separation brought on by sleep.
  9. Keep to the same schedule all week. If you change up your child’s sleep patterns on the weekends (e.g. skip a mid-day nap), their body clock is disturbed and may take up to two days to get back on track.
  10. Be kind and firm. Toddlers are notorious for stalling during the bedtime routine, commonly asking for “one more” book/sip of water/hug/etc. Set limits on how many books, for example, will be read and allow tears of frustration when your child doesn’t get her way.  Stay close and be empathetic.  This will give your child a clear sense of where those boundaries lie so she doesn’t need to continually challenge the limits and delay bedtime.

Janeen Hayward has given talks to thousands of Bump Club and Beyond parents, parents-to-be and their families over the last decade.  She is the founder and principal of Swellbeing and shares her knowledge on a variety of topics with the BCB Community on a regular basis.  You can follow Swellbeing or check them out online. 

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