By: Joleen Dilk Salyn
It’s that time of year when many of us are getting back into a structured routine again. Summer vacations have ended, children are in school and our work commitments begin to pile up, making the need for sleep essential for the health and well-being of our families. (note from the editor: At the time of writing, the kids in BC were not in school due to the labour dispute)
But how do we get started on a sleep routine, especially for our children who have been used to the lazy, hazy days of summer? Use the following five tips to ease your children into healthy sleep habits once again.
1. Control the wake up
Although we all love to sleep in and love it even more when our children do it, for a healthy sleep routine to form, we want to have a consistent wake up time; including weekends. This helps to keep our children’s body clock on a regular rhythm and assist them with the adjustment to a more structured school day.
2. Age Appropriate Bedtime
Along with having a set wake up time, it is also important to have a regular, and age appropriate bedtime too. For young children, being asleep no later than 8:00pm (and even earlier if they are 5 or younger), will benefit their bodies and allow them to function at their best.
The blue light that is emitted from electronic devices such as mobile phones, tablets and TVs, has been shown to inhibit the release of melatonin, which is the body’s natural sleep hormone. Therefore, to help encourage a restful night, limit exposure to any electronic devices 60-90 minutes prior to a sleep period.
4. Regular Routine Every Day
Although moms and dads like to relax on the weekends, a great sleep hygiene practice for our children is to have a consistent pattern every day of the week. Children thrive on routine, therefore keeping their meals, playtime and bedtime consistent from day to day, will keep resistance to a minimum as the child will know what to expect.
5. Soothing Pre-Sleep Routine
One of the easiest (and most enjoyable) parts of creating a sleep routine, is the wind down just before you say good-night to your child. This pre-sleep routine can be as simple as a diaper change and a cuddle for babies, to reading from a chapter book after a snack and a hot bath for older kids. When repeated every day, this soothing wind down acts as a cue for the child’s body and it begins to prepare for sleep.
Fall can be a hectic time for many families, but by implementing these five tips, we can help encourage our children to be well rested, healthy and happy.
Joleen Dilk Salyn is a certified pediatric sleep consultant and founder of Baby Sleep 101. She helps tired parents get their children sleeping through the night by working with the science of sleep and healthy sleep best practices. She is a member of the International Association of Child Sleep Consultants and in addition to her certification as a sleep consultant, also holds a Bachelor of Education, and Post Baccalaureate in Education. Joleen is also a mother to two wonderful children.