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How to Maintain Healthy Sleep Habits in Kids
|Image from Pixaby via RachelBostwick|
Making sure your kids get enough sleep each night is hard enough during the school year, let alone the summer months when there’s no school schedule to keep. Kids are often convinced that all the good stuff happens after they’re in bed and try every tactic in the book to convince their parents that they’re old enough to stay up later and function on less sleep. Parents, however, know just how important sleep is to not only prevent a case of crankiness but also to help their children function at their best throughout the day.
But how are you supposed to compete with long summer days and no consequences for waking up late? The key is to cultivate a healthy sleep schedule and nightly routine so that your children, regardless of season, will feel tired when they should be going to bed. Here are a few ways to cultivate those beneficial sleep habits in children.
Make the Bedroom About Sleep
Set up the room with a good mattress and comfy bedding that make going to bed seem fun and enjoyable. It might help to let your child help pick out bedding. You may also invest in blackout curtains for the long summer days, making it easier for the child to accept that night has fallen, and it’s time to sleep.
It is also best to limit bedroom activities. If the child associates the room with playing and being active, it will be more difficult for them to use the same space to sleep and wind down.
Monitor Evening Foods and Drinks
Certain foods and drinks are commonly known to increase energy levels and make sleep difficult. Sugars, caffeine, and empty carbs are the typical items to avoid in the evening. However, other foods and drinks can actually cause sleepiness, making them an ideal evening snack to prompt your child’s natural bedtime.
Cherries and cherry juice have a high natural occurrence of melatonin, the chemical your brain produces for sleep. These can make for a great natural sleep aid. Bananas are also great because they are high in magnesium and potassium (also good for sleep) dairy products. A common cause of insomnia is calcium deficiency, making a calcium-rich snack ideal for evenings.
Select Evening Activities Wisely
While many activities can cause hyperactivity and excitement, it can be extremely beneficial to wear your children out before putting them to bed. A family exercise such as hiking, bike rides, or even family yoga can be the perfect way to guarantee your child is ready for bed on time. This also has the added advantage of keeping summer fun despite a responsible sleep schedule.
If the family is unable to go out, you can also consider relaxing, quiet activities before bed such as crafting, coloring, or reading. Avoid movies or screens, as the light can keep kids awake.
Keeping your kids on a good schedule during the lazy, dog days of summer does not have to be a battle. You can use food and exercise (and maybe some colorful sheets!) to help establish a routine and improve your family’s health habits. It’s about training your kids to make good choices for their health because they want to, not forcing them to follow healthy habits that you dictate.
Sean Morris is a former social worker turned stay-at-home dad. He knows what it’s like to juggle family and career. He did it for years until deciding to become a stay-at-home dad after the birth of his son. Though he loved his career in social work, he has found this additional time with his kids to be the most rewarding experience of his life. He began writing for LearnFit.org to share his experiences and to help guide anyone struggling to find the best path for their life, career, and/or family.