Children need a lot of sleep. Pre-schoolers need around 10 hours and toddlers need up to 13 hours a day! So why does it sometimes feel like they spend more time awake than asleep during the night?
There can be all kinds of reasons your child won’t go to sleep, or keeps waking through the night. According to Jodi Mindell, Ph.D, author of “Sleeping Through the Night”, there are two kinds of children, “sleepers and non-sleepers”. If you are fortunate enough to have the first kind, you’re probably not reading this guide. For the rest of you, I feel for you! The first thing to know is, it won’t always be like this. Eventually, they will sleep. But for now, there are a number of steps you can take to help set your child up for a good night's sleep, starting tonight.
- The key to setting up a good night’s sleep for your child starts during the waking the hours... Notice your child’s energy levels during the day, and when they start to get tired. Try to build naps and bedtime around their natural body clock. If they don’t like naps, try making their bedtime a little earlier, and try to avoid naps for older children.
- Make sure they are getting enough time to play in the sunlight. This will help suppress the natural sleep hormone, melatonin, during the day, so levels have built up by night time when it can do its job, making children sleepy.
- Avoid giving kids too many processed foods and drinks. We all know what it’s like to ride the sugar rollercoaster! And the same applies to kids. After a sugary breakfast they’re up, and then they crash. More sugar at lunch and then the afternoon crash comes leaving them feeling irritable. This can wreak havoc at bedtime. Avoid the energy roller coaster by including lots of whole foods like fruit, vegetables, whole grains, protein and healthy fats at each meal and snack.
- Dim the lights, and turn-off screens, at least one hour before bed. Creating a dimly lit environment enables melatonin levels in the brain to rise, making your child ready for sleep. Bright screens like TV, tablets and smart phones will suppress melatonin, tricking the brain into thinking it is still daytime.
- Make Bath Time Relaxing. Magnesium is a great muscle relaxer and can be added to baths in the form of Epsom salt. Our Dream Bath Soak has been specially formulated for children and babies, with beautiful soothing herbs like Lavender and Chamomile.
- Make their Bedroom a Safe Sanctuary. Try to make their bedroom a place which looks the same whether during the day or at 3am. Try turning out the lights and notice anything which might seem scary if they wake in the night ie. shadows on the wall, open cupboard doors etc. The less distractions when they wake, the easier they’ll get back to sleep.
- Make Bedtime Consistent. Getting your child to bed at the same time every night will help set your child’s body clock. If you need to make adjustments to the time, try to do it in 15 minute increments each night for a few days.
- Create a Ritual. A predictable bedtime routine will help your child feel safe and settled. Choose a few soothing activities such as reading their favourite book, singing a song, giving their back a rub (our Sleep Balm can be a great option for this) or saying goodnight to their toys. Allow at least 30 minutes to an hour, including bath time, brushing teeth and getting into their pyjamas. By setting up a routine which takes place whilst your child is in their own bed, it makes bed a happy, safe place, instead of somewhere they are sent against their will.
- Sleepy Herbs for Children –There are some effective, gentle herbs which can help prepare your children for bed. Herbs can be given in the form of tea added to bottles before bed, in baths, used in massage oils, balms or as aromatherapy. Some of my favourite herbs for helping children sleep include: Chamomile – A gentle soothing herb, and especially helpful for children that can be irritable and difficult around bedtime. It also helps to aid digestion and soothe upset tummies after dinner. Lemon Balm – Ideal for children that may have anxieties or fears which can interfere at bedtime, or wake in the night with bad dreams. It helps to calm the nervous system. Lavender – The relaxing scent of Lavender can help to calm an over-active mind. Ideal for children that over-think or worry.
By incorporating these 9 steps into your child’s day, you will be setting you and your family up for a restful night’s sleep. Our Sleep Balm & Dream Bath Soak are designed to be your best friend at bedtime. They are Naturopathically formulated with soothing herbs to incorporate easily into you bedtime routine. They are both included in our Dream Bedtime Skincare Collection Gift Box.
I hope these tips can help and wish you and your family sweet dreams tonight.
Founder & Naturopath
The Physic Garden